Wednesday, 28 June 2017

PIANO? PERFECT!

I asked readers to tell us what they love/ hate about piano lessons... this is what they said!

Molly says:
I LOVE playing the piano. I have been learning this amazing instrument since I was eight and I love it because when I use the piano the magnificent sound flows through my whole body, inflicting beautiful music right into my fingers as I touch the delicate keys. Playing the piano is one of my favourite hobbies, and I like to inspire my friends to take up the experience too. I recommend this instrument to everyone!

Kate says:
I learned piano from when I was seven to when I was fifteen or sixteen. I was super-keen to start with but I got very, very nervous taking piano exams, so much so that in the end my teacher agreed to teach me through the grades without actually making me sit the exams. I'm nineteen now and a student, and I play guitar, mandolin and drums, and sing. I don't have a piano any more - my parents moved house and the piano couldn't come, and in my student flat there's no room. However, one day I will have a piano again - it's the instrument that opened up the whole world of music to me and it will always be my favourite.

Chloe says:
I started piano at twelve and went to a lovely teacher just a few minutes away from me. By the end of that year I had passed Grade One with distinction. Over the next few years I took part in several concerts and took my Grade Two, Three and Four exams, passing with merit. I am now nineteen and play backing piano in a band, and although I am at uni an hour from home, I go back every weekend to have my piano lessons! I'm working at Grade Five now and plan to go on until I get to Grade Eight - and beyond!

Carly says:
I was talked into piano lessons because my brother was taking them and my mum thought it made sense if we both learnt. I picked it up quickly but after a while it was clear I was playing by ear - just working out instinctively what to play after hearing something - and as the lessons progressed, it was clear I couldn't read music. I opted to stop the lessons, but I do still play, and my brother teaches me some quite difficult pieces as he stuck with it and can read music well. I can do a good party piece on the piano if I want to, and I love the way you can lose yourself in it all!

Daisy says:
I wanted to do piano because a friend was learning, even though I had never really been very musical up to that point. I started off well but struggled with the practice after a while. You do have to practice or else you won't get very far. I stopped doing my grades when I was fourteen using the excuse that school was getting quite pressured, but funnily enough I love piano more than I ever have now - it is the perfect stress release when studying and it lifts all my worries away and leaves me feeling peaceful and happy. I think I will go on playing piano until I am old and grey. I hope so anyway!

Fab photos of reader Molly playing piano, courtesy of Suzanne. Thank you both!

Cathy says:
These comments are SO inspiring! I was a failed piano student as a child... and again as an adult, though I loved it lots. I just never found enough time to practice! This has made me want to give it another go! Do YOU play piano? Tell us more in a COMMENT BELOW!

ELLIE: PHOTO FINISH!

Reader Ellie loves photography - and hopes to use it in her career one day!

Ellie says:
It was the beauty of photography that first drew me in - the idea that I could create a unique image at the click of a button just fascinated me. About a year and a half ago, I started becoming more interested in photography when i had to collect my own primary images for an art project. I remember my friend and I giggling as she was trying to keep a straight face for a photo - I greatly enjoy drawing portraiture. I was really pleased with the outcome of the photos. For another project, I was exploring the theme of emotions therefore I decided to be artistic and experiment with different medias for effect. For example, I used my friend Niamh as a model to paint rainbow tears on her face to express emotion in a unique and more powerful manner. I then used my friend Jake to create a 'beaten up' look using make up and fake blood! This created an intense and hard-hitting edge to the photos. To me, photography can be exciting yet personal, and it's fun to play around and put your own twist on ideas to make them individual.

Over time, I have found that there are two distinct areas of photography that I adore - nature and controversy! Firstly, I love being able to capture the wonders of nature in a photograph and I especially love experimenting with the effects of sunlight. Secondly, I have a keen passion for controversial issues because they go against the norm, so for example I used a male as opposed to a female for the abused look because it highlights that men can be victims of domestic violence as well as women.

In the future I aspire to be a sociological journalist, therefore I plan to use photography within that. I have always stood by the idea that you should love what you do, combining my hobby with my career would be ideal to me! I bought my first digital SLR Canon 350D camera (I had been using my phone previously) and I love practicing with it and looking at how light and colour can create different looks and images!

All photos by Ellie... how cool?!!

Cathy says: I love taking photos too... and once learned (and taught) black and white photographic printing, which was very cool! Good luck Ellie - I love your plan of using photography as a part of your journalistic career! Do YOU have a dream career? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

LOVE FROM LEXIE - THE VERDICT!

I asked my readers to tell me what they thought of new book LOVE FROM LEXIE... here are just two reviews to start you off!

Shona says:
I really enjoyed LOVE FROM LEXIE because it was realistic, mysterious and musical (which was good for me as I play piano!). The plot revolves around lost, vulnerable Lexie, who wants to re-unite the adrift, isolated people of her school but accidentally finds herself part of a rock band! This latest book is another success from CC - my favourite book previously was SWEET HONEY, and this is quite a different book with a relaxed and carefree theme. I would rate this book FIVE STARS because of the subtle, clever techniques that let you crawl into Lexie's head! I am awaiting the next book in the series!

Emma says:
LOVE FROM LEXIE was the most emotional, epic book I have read in a long time. To start off, it was warm and sweet and calm and nice - then the story swept me up and I was carried away by Lexie's story. I thought it might be your typical teen romance - troublesome boy meets lost girl, they fall in love... but I was wrong, and I did not expect such a roller-coaster ride! I'm not giving away any spoilers, but there is a HUGE plot-twist that literally knocked me off my seat! It was so unexpected, and, well... awesome, I guess! Plus, if you look closely, we are re-united with a very familiar character... I'm not giving any more away! It's a beautiful, romantic story that anyone who has ever felt they're different can relate to. I really, really, really, REALLY can't wait for the next book in the series!

Cathy says:
LOTS more awesome reviews coming up in the weeks ahead... and loads of other good stuff too, of course! If YOU have emailed or messaged me a review of LOVE FROM LEXIE and it hasn't appeared yet, let me know as I have lots to put together and don't want to miss anyone! Have YOU read the new book yet? What are you waiting for? ;o) 

Monday, 19 June 2017

A LIBRARY LAUNCH FOR LEXIE!

A Blackburn school library likes CC books so much, they decided to have their own book launch for LOVE FROM LEXIE! The librarian and some of the kids tell us more...

Mrs D says:
What an exciting lunchtime we had on Thursday 15th June as celebrations took place in the school library for the launch of new Cathy Cassidy book LOVE FROM LEXIE! Before the launch, some Year 7 & 8 pupils created bookmarks and posters to celebrate the arrival of the new book, and on he actual day pupils rushed into the library during their lunch break to read an extract, pick up a free bookmark and eat cupcakes! A reservation list has been put in place for all those girls and boys wishing to borrow LOVE FROM LEXIE. It's the first book in a great new series and is going to be great for anyone new to CC books!

I'd like to thank Puffin Books for helping to make our launch extra special, and thanks to Cathy too for being such an inspiration to our readers, which goes on from year to year! Another successful book launch!

Sahil says:
I started reading CC books the first time I came to the school library - a book called GINGERSNAPS got me hooked! I started going to the library more, to get more CC books! The launch for CC's new book LOVE FROM LEXIE was great - we had the time of our lives, with cupcakes and cookies as treats and lots of chat about the books. They are definitely my favourites and I can't wait to read LOVE FROM LEXIE!

Esme says:
I'm a pupil librarian at my school and was so impressed to see that amount of people in our library for the LOVE FROM LEXIE launch! There were sweets (of course) and free bookmarks and games. I can't wait to read LOVE FROM LEXIE because it seems so realistic and cool!

Cathy says:
Awesome! Thanks to Mrs D and all the student librarians who helped to organise this - and all who came along! There's a bit of a library theme in the book, so a library launch was very appropriate! Does YOUR school library have cool events like this? If not, why not suggest some? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

DADDY'S GIRL?

Its Fathers Day in the UK... so let's hear it for dads! We asked you what your dad means to you...

Katie says:
I have Dad to thank for my fangirl side... if he wasn't around, I wouldn't be so excited about TV shows, books and movies! I am thankful he's around, and not just because half the time he's the only one who understands me! Despite his being Grizzly Bear, he got up at 6a, to drive me to the place where I volunteer, and he's always ready to be called on for what Mum and I call 'man jobs'. He also cooks the dinner and helps me put the rubber bands on my braces every night!

Jenna says:
My dad was a house-husband for a while when I was younger, because he lost his job and mum was working, so I really do appreciate how much he does for us all. He is still the best cook and actually enjoys ironing (Mum thinks he's mad!) and he is happy to drive my sisters and I around and pick us up after parties. Which is good, because we live in the countryside and we'd have no social life otherwise!

Holly says:
My dad means the world to me... I don't know what I'd do without him.He helps me with everything from college work to university and beyond. He is my superhero.

Violet says:
My biological dad is that and nothing more - the closest I have to a dad is my mum's partner of seven years. I was already fourteen when they met so he didn't have much of a hand in bringing us up, but he takes time out to ferry us to friend's houses, appointments and events. He sees us as his family and makes sure we know that, and we share a sense of humour. Mum and Murdo are getting married in September - I'm not going to be a bridesmaid, I refuse to wear a dress, but I'm making origami cranes for the table centrepieces at the reception. I'm happy for him to marry mum - he may not be my 'real dad' but as father figure's go he's one of the best!

Caro says:
My dad has taught me so much, I think the world of him. He's the one person who always has my back no matter what, who always stands up for me, who understands me even when I am feeling sad or fed up or bad tempered. We are quite similar, which helps. I guess I'm a Daddy's Girl all right!

Chelsie says:
My dad and mum are divorced, but we have managed to stay close. I see him every weekend and we have a great relationship, a friendship as well as a parent-child bond. We are both adventurers and see the world in a similar way, so if I disagree with my mum about something - like wanting to go to a specialist drama college instead of regular Sixth Form - he will speak up for me. I know he is there for me no matter what, and at the end of the day that's what dad's are for!

Grace says:
My dad is a legend. H got me into heavy metal and rock music and introduced me to all kinds of good bands. Sometimes we sit in his room and he introduces me to music he likes and vice versa. I got him into bands like Poets of the Fall and Fall Out Boy. We stick songs on the jukebox in his favourite pub and drive the staff mad with how many times we play ACDC. He has never once embarrassed me when it mattered, he's always there for me and is the best dad ever. His advice is, don't take any rubbish off anyone, stand your ground when it matters and when you really love someone never let the sun set on an argument!

Cathy says:
Aww... lots of love in this post! It's not too late to give YOUR dad a quick shout-out - COMMENT BELOW to let him know what he means to you!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

LOVE FROM LEXIE... IT'S HERE!!!

Hijacking the reader blog today to tell you all about my new book, LOVE FROM LEXIE, the first in the brand new LOST & FOUND series, out now... whoop!


Cathy says:
At last... LOVE FROM LEXIE is released into the wild, and I'm waiting with baited breath to hear what you guys think of it! It's in all good bookshops and online book hubs now, and should be in your school/local library before long too! (You can always remind the librarians you're looking for it!) It's the first in a new series about a bunch of misfit teens who accidentally form a band... and save a library too! I thought I'd tell you some of my inspirations for the story...

My kids, both musicians, have been brainwashing me for years with their various bands, songs, festivals and gigs, and all of that was brilliant background when it came to writing about Lexie and her friends! I even had a crash course in writing lyrics... lots of fun!

My love of libraries also managed to sneak into the story... and two extra-fab librarian friends formed the inspiration for LOVE FROM LEXIE's ultra-cool librarian character, the pink-haired vintage-wearing Miss Walker! This character borrowed a name and a hair colour from librarian Angie (see pic, right!), who recently campaigned tirelessly to save Newarthill Library in Scotland... and succeeded! I'll be doing a library event there in the autumn to help celebrate... maybe I'll see you there! The other inspiration for Miss Walker was my fab librarian friend Natalie, who hasn't had pink hair (yet) but has rocked turquoise, purple and silver colours! She helped to show me just how exciting libraries an be, with open mics, teen poetry nights and lots more. I'll be doing an event soon one of Natalie's lovely Worcestershire libraries too, so keep an eye on the EVENTS page on cathycassidy.com for more details - I'll update as soon as I know!

There's one last inspiration I'd like to mention - a very cool tortoise called Mary Shelley. She belongs to a friend of my daughter, and Cait often looks after her when her rightful owner is away. Mary Shelley inspired a tortoise-type character of the same name in the book - and she might even be my very favourite character! The pic shows Mary having an adventure with Cait and her friends beside a sunset lake in the Peak District... awww!

LOVE FROM LEXIE is out NOW - and if you've got your hands on a copy already, please think about sending me a review for DREAMCATCHER. I'd LOVE to know what you think! Send your reviews to me by email via the 'email Cathy' link over on cathycassidy.com - and COMMENT BELOW to let me know what you think!

Friday, 9 June 2017

WIN A COPY OF THE NORRIS GIRLS!

My author pal Nigel Hinton - author of the classic YA book BUDDY - has written a fab new book, THE NORRIS GIRLS, which is out now! I asked him to tell us about it!

Nigel says:
A couple of years ago I was doing some talks in schools and was asked two brilliant questions that really made me think. The first one was 'Why do authors always write about unhappy families?' The other was 'Why do you always write books about boys?'

I realised it was true - lots of books are about unhappy families and most of my books do have boys as the central character. I decided to try to write a story about girls in a family that was, by and large, happy! I remembered a song that has the line, ' If you can't bring good news, then don't bring any.' It's true that most news nowadays is miserable and makes people feel pessimistic so wanted my book to be dramatic and moving but above all upbeat and optimistic.

THE NORRIS GIRLS is about three sisters whose dad is away in a dangerous country; their mum says life has to go on normally and encourages them to follow their dreams. One wants to be in the school play, one wants to be selected as an athlete for her county team and the third wants to ride ponies and dreams of having one of her own. I did lots of research, going to school plays and athletics meetings and pony clubs, but I was still worried - could I really write from a girl's point of view? When I finished the book, I decided to ask two brilliant children's authors - Cathy Cassidy and Jacqueline Wilson - to read the book and let me know what they thought. It was nerve wracking waiting to hear back, but both loved it, so I was really happy.

I hope you will like the book too! If you'd like to win a copy of THE NORRIS GIRLS, all you have to do is write to the email address below and tell me why you would like to read the book. I will choose the five best reasons and the lucky winners will each receive a copy signed by me.

Send your reasons for wanting to read the book to: 
thenorrisgirls@candyjarbooks.co.uk

Entries close on June 30th!

By the way, check out the cool music on THE NORRIS GIRLS playlist on Spotify!
https://open.spotify.com/user/candyjarbooks/playlist/5xtQp5V7tuzl3GsGDbMEnb

Cathy says:
I really did love this book... perfect for my younger readers aged 9-14, it's a fab, feel-good story with plenty of drama and heart. I'm thrilled that Nigel is putting some copies of the book up for grabs... this is a comp well worth trying out for! Will YOU be entering the comp? Would you like to see more comps on DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

YOUR STARS FOR JUNE!

It's horoscope time again and Skye Tanberry has some predictions for the month ahead... take a look and see if they chime with you!

GEMINI: May 22 - June 22
The stars are with you this month, giving your confidence a little boost and drawing friends both old and new towards you. Good news this month will open new doorways to the future. You're showing your true colours and potential right now, so enjoy the opportunities this will bring your way!

CANCER: June 23 - July 23
Something - big or small - needs to change at school/ college. Work out what isn't working and begin making the changes, because the months ahead hold some huge and exciting steps forward - make sure you're ready to make the most of them!

LEO: July 24 - Aug 23
You've wasted time recently on worrying about things that re not going to happen - step back from this vicious circle and focus on the positive. When you put all your energy into this, you'll find things shift and change in some unexpected ways. A great opportunity may come your way later this month.

VIRGO: Aug 24 - Sept 22
You work hard at school, but make time to enjoy friendships too... social life is well-starred right now and someone - perhaps the last person you would ever suspect - may be crushing on you. Keep that work-life balance good and make sure you enjoy the fun!

LIBRA: Sept 23 - Oct 23
You're on great form just now - at times it may feel like anything is possible. It really is - as long as you are willing to put in the hard work to make it happen! This is a month for moving forward and making the most of new starts and fresh opportunities!

SCORPIO: Oct 24 - Nov 22
Events beyond your control are affecting you strongly at the moment - keep everything in perspective and make sure this is a positive influence! Travel plans may brighten up the usual routine, and plans made now for later in the summer will give you and your friends a lift... get plotting!

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 23 - Dec 22
You have a big decision to make, and not an easy one. A friendship or romance may be at make-or-break point, and only you can decide which choice is best for you. Everyone deserves a second chance, but don't let others use you or chip away at your self esteem. You deserve better.

CAPRICORN: Dec 23 - Jan 19
Friends and family are making a bigger than usual impact on your life right now. This can feel unsettling, so try to steer a calm path through the drama and stay as neutral as you can. Changes are afoot, but the best way to handle them is with a clear head and a kind heart.

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 19
This month may have a few drama-queen moments up its sleeve, but resist the temptation to let these distract you. School and study - or perhaps a personal project - still need all of your attention, so hang on and give this your best effort. The rewards are not far away now!

PISCES: Feb 20 - Mar 20
A new start could be on the cards, but like many opportunities it may look like something quite different to start with! Stay cool and ride out any small difficulties - the pay-off could be startlingly good. Patience, trust and sheer hard work could open some very exciting doors for you.

ARIES: Mar 21 - April 20
A part of you is feeling sad - it seems like the end of an era. Time to reflect on what you learnt from all of this, and to value the good times and keep those lessons with you. Remember that endings make way for new starts, too - chin up, you're moving forward to exciting new things!

TAURUS: April 21 - May 21
You're not always known for your impulsive nature, but this month trust your instincts and take some risks... adventure and opportunity are in the stars! Whether you are travelling to foreign climes or planning a picnic in the park with friends, live in the moment and enjoy every minute!

Cathy says:
Do Skye's predictions ring true for YOU this month? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 2 June 2017

MARY: HOW TO BE A YOUNG LADY...

Not all of my readers are teens and tweens... mums and even grans read CC books, too! Here one of my older readers writes about how different life was when she was growing up!

Mary says:
I was a teenager in the 1950s and early 60s and things were very different in those days - and easier in some ways. In other ways, life was a lot harder! Some foods were still rationed in the 1950s and we certainly ate a much less varied diet, but it was healthy and there was no junk food to be had. My mother cooked tea every day, and it was usually meat and vegetables, and at the weekend there would be a pudding. In the week, if you wanted something sweet, it would be bread and jam - and the jam was blackberry, made from berries we picked from the hedgerows on the edge of the town. The toilet was outside in a draughty outhouse and indoors the only heating came from a coal fire which my father cleaned out and lit anew each morning.

I passed my 11+ and went to the grammar school, and that was wonderful for my parents who were very proud. For me, it was hard because many of my friends from junior school went to a different school, and I missed them and took quite a while to make good friends at the grammar. My mum made lots of my clothes, even some of the uniform for school, to save money. She knitted my jumpers and made my skirts, but I remember the shirt and tie were my pride and joy because they were always shop bought. I did very well at school. It was an all-girls grammar and as well as pushing us to achieve our best in every subject, we were expected to be well-mannered. The school was very proud of us and we were expected to be a good example, to act 'like a young lady' at all times. It sounds very old fashioned now but manners are important, I think, as is respect for other people. The school expected us to shine, and I suppose I did work harder because I knew the teachers really believed in us.

In those days, although women did work, not many planned careers in the way they do now. Some of my friends wanted to go into teaching, some into nursing or banking, and some wanted to go to university. This seemed impossibly glamorous to me, as nobody in my family had ever been to college or university. My exam results were good and I was encouraged to apply to study English at university. Those were wonderful years. I dreamed of being a writer at one point but instead I worked as a teacher encouraging young people to achieve their own dreams. Over many years, I saw my students achieve more than they thought possible and that gave me great satisfaction. I still love reading, and my grand daughters are very impressed that they discovered their favourite author (Cathy Cassidy) after I sent them both a signed book for Christmas! I knew they'd love the books, because I read them first to check that they were suitable... well, that's my excuse, anyway!

Cathy says:
I love this! I often meet older CC readers and love their support and loyalty... who says my books are just for teens? Do YOU know an older CC reader? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

AMEERA: VOICES FOR LIBRARIES

I first met reader Ameera at a library event in Devon, so I was thrilled to find out that a piece of writing about libraries had earned her a place in the final of the Young Journalist of the Year competition! Read what she had to say. So cool...

Ameera says...
All across the country, libraries are facing reduced funding and the possibility of closure. I spoke to Seaton Library in Devon to find out what this means for individual libraries.

As recently as 2011, all the libraries in Devon were run by Devon County Council. Facing cuts in 2015/16 of £50m to the council's budget, it was feared that half the libraries in Devon would have to close. The council had already saved £3m from its library budget and needed to save £1.5m more by last April. These cuts were achieved, and not a single library in Devon has closed so far.

So what happened? Devon Libraries separated from the council's administration and became part of a new charitable trust.This means that the libraries are managing themselves, and allows the trust to keep all the libraries open. However, Devon County Council are giving less money each year to the new management. To keep costs down, many top managers were made redundant and the offices they used were rented to provide income.

The libraries now have a lower budget to buy books and DVDs with, so less popular books will no longer be available to readers. Library staff are very worried that today's great authors (maybe the 21st century's next Shakespeare) will not be getting read. These libraries can no longer afford to run events as often and reduced staff means more limited opening times.

FoSeL (Friends of Seaton Library) stepped in where funding was not enough. They raise money for events and prizes, donate books and volunteer to help keep the library open. Even so, this is not enough - other local libraries are still threatened with closure. If this is the case for YOUR library, please go and help save the books today.

Cathy says:
Wow... this is a great piece of reportage from a very talented library lover! Readers may be interested to know that the characters in my new book LOVE FROM LEXIE (out June 15th!) save their local library from closure... in a very cool way! Do YOU use your local library? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Monday, 29 May 2017

SWEETREAT'S STRAWBERRY CUPCAKES!

Blogger, baker and Chocolate Box Girls fan Sweetreats is sharing her gorgeous recipe for strawberry cupcakes... just the kind of project Summer Tanberry would love making for her sisters!

Sweetreats says:


You will need:
8 large fresh strawberries
2 free range eggs
200g caster sugar
75ml vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
A little red food colouring

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170c/ gas mark 3. Grease 12 holes of a cupcake tin or line with cupcake cases.

2. Place the strawberries into a blender and blend until smooth. Alternatively, you can simmer the strawberries within a pan of water until the strawberries grow soft, setting aside to cool for approx 10 mins before mushing with a fork. Pour through a sieve to remove all the seeds and set the puree aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat together the egg, caster sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, lemon zest and strawberry puree until all well combined. Then stir in the flour, baking powder, salt and food colouring to reach the desired shade of pink. Ensure all is smooth and well mixed.

4. Carefully pour or spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling them up to 2/3 full. (They will rise while cooking!)

5. Bake the cupcakes for 20-23 minutes until the cakes have risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean.

6. Allow the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack for half an hour before icing!

There are so many variations and possibilities when it comes to icing the cupcakes... plain buttercream, chocolate buttercream, regular fondant icing poured over the cakes... You can make your own or even buy ready-made! I opted to ice my cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and coloured it pink. If you like, decorate the cakes further with a little chocolate and a halved strawberry. And voilá!

Check out Sweetreat's inspiring baking blog here: www.bakingboutiquebirds.blogspot.co.uk/

Cathy says:
These look just amazing! Perfect recipe to try out at half-term... yum! Have YOU got a favourite recipe you'd like to share with DREAMCATCHER? Just email me via the EMAIL LINK on www.cathycassidy.com to be featured on the blog, or COMMENT BELOW to tell us what you think!

Friday, 26 May 2017

WHY NOT TRY... UNDONE BY CAT CLARKE

Reader Violet has a book recommendation for older teens and young adult readers... have a read and see what you think!

Violet says:
My current favourite book is UNDONE by Cat Clarke - she's a Scottish writer, and I'm always very pleased when my country-mates - I hope that's a word, it's quite sweet - do well. It's a YA book so please not, it is only suitable for OLDER TEENS and adults, but it is one book that will stay with you. It is told from the viewpoint of Jem Halliday, a girl grieving her best friend Kai, and trying to cope with the aftermath of his suicide. She decides to get revenge on the people she believes caused his death.

UNDONE is such an emotional read - I had to take a break after a few chapters as it was just too heartbreaking to read in one sitting. It's really powerful. Jem is relatable, she is just an ordinary teenage girl. She's not perfect, she doesn't have special powers, she isn't a courageous heroine. She's Jem, and she misses Kai, and that's all that matters. Even I missed Kai, that's how well written UNDONE is! If you think you are strong enough to deal with the heartbreak and the sleepless nights this book will bring, I strongly recommend you read it because it is an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, in the best possible way. It's a book you won't forget.

'It doesn't get any easier. No matter what they say, time doesn't heal the wound. Time just unravels and shows you new and more painful ways to miss someone...'

Cathy says:
Love this YA recommendation... I love Cat's writing too, so this is one I will try. Do YOU have a favourite book you'd like to recommend to DREAMCATCHER readers? This is your chance! COMMENT BELOW to tell us, and email me via the 'EMAIL CATHY' link over on the main website, www.cathycassidy.com

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

HANNAH: MUM'S SO STRESSED!

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER again, and reader Hannah has a worry for Skye Tanberry to sort out...

Hannah says:
I would always have said that we were a happy family but things have changed loads in the last year. My mum has a new job which I know she doesn't like much, but we need the money. It seems to have changed her personality though. She is so snappy and mean with dad, and with my sister and me. Everything we do seems to be wrong these days. Last night she made my sister (who is eleven) cry, and told her she was useless and stupid. I hate being at home now, it's so stressy, and I go to my friend's house after school if I can, but that's not fair on my sister. Everything is going wrong.

Skye says:
I think stress is the cause of all this unhappiness, and talking is the way to try to unravel the problem. Talk to your dad and see what his take on all of this is... he may know much more than you about what is going on. Let him know you and your sister are upset and scared by the bad atmosphere and don't know what to do. Talk to your mum too... but not in an accusing or confrontational way. Explain you miss the family closeness and having time to do fun things together. Ask if there is anything you can do to help things run more smoothly. Let her know you love her, and want to help. Money worries, job stress, health issues or any number of other things could be the cause of this, but until you know you cannot help. Get talking, and good luck.

Cathy says:
Good advice from Skye - do YOU have anything to add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 22 May 2017

CHLOE: LOSING A PET

Reader Chloe writes about the sadness of losing a much-loved pet... and finding the courage to move on.

Chloe says:
Oreo was the best pet I could ever have wished for. I got him from a rescue on April Fool's Day 2016, and he was a lovely and very crazy rabbit! Oreo liked to play in the house and was very cuddly. We went for walks together in the garden and boy did I get plenty of exercise... he ran all over the place and I must admit sometimes he was very naughty! Oreo sadly passed away in October - he had a heart attack, we think caused by fear because a fox was in the garden. Even though he was safe in his hutch, he must have been very frightened. I really missed Oreo but I knew he had had a good life with our family, and I felt that eventually I would want to move on and find another animal to look after and love.

That happened round about Easter this year. They came from a pet shop, but they'd been there for almost a year, so I thought they deserved a proper home at last. We had looked at other pairs of rabbits but these two were definitely the favourites, so we named them Eeyore and Bambi - Eeyore is the grey female, and Bambi is the brown male. We took these little cuties home with us on the bus, in a special pet carrier. Their cage in the garden was already set up and waiting, so as soon as we got home we put them in and let them get settled. After a while, we brought them into the kitchen for more exploring, so they could be nosy and have a look around. Now, in May, they have settled brilliantly and are the most amazing and loveable pets. I think they're enjoying themselves, too!

Rabbits like to live in pairs, but it is best if they are neutered or you could end up with a lot MORE rabbits than you bargained for! Most rescues offer neutered rabbits only, and Eeyore and Bambi were neutered already so we didn't have to worry about that. Rabbits mostly need love and affection, but not all rabbits are as cuddly as you imagine. When it comes to food, rabbits need a balanced diet of hard pellets and fresh veggies. My rabbits love apples and they get treat bars once in a while too! Not all pets have a long life, but with affection we can make sure they have a happy one!

Cathy says:
I have two rescue rabbits and agree that they are happiest in pairs. Ours live in a moveable hutch most of the year, moved daily so they can have fresh grass; in the winter, they live in the greenhouse! Do YOU have a special pet you love to bits, or have YOU lost a beloved animal friend? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

ZARA: ONLY DEAD FISH GO WITH THE FLOW...

Reader Zara speaks out about the way we are judged for our looks - and the way we are all pressured to conform to what society expects of us...


Zara says:
We are all different. We all look different. We are all individual and we are all unique. Not everyone always sees this though. Many see their differences as flaws and try to change them - or at least, some do. Make up is one of the easiest things we can us to change our appearance - but it won't change you as a person. You can apply as much foundation and mascara as you want, but you can never be truly 'perfect' - if there is such a thing.

We are all perfect in our own way, the same on the inside, but the world does not tell us this. The people we know don't always ell us this either, but now I am telling you! You don't need make up or money to be happy, you don't need good grades or the best house. You need people who surround you every day, who know - as you should - that you are beautiful. You are kind. You are strong. All your flaws and imperfections, they are a part of you too and you wouldn't be the same without them. You wouldn't be the kindest person with the biggest heart, the most perfect smile, the most radiant eyes that could light up any room. That personality of yours - wow! You are understanding, you are empathic, you are the best friend that anyone could ever have, and nothing could change that.

Nothing should change that, because I don't want you to change. I hate change. I hate it when my local pizza shop changes the box, I hate it when I move house or fall out with friends. I regret not telling people every day how much they mean to me, but you know what? I am afraid. I'm afraid I will be picked on because of my voice, my 'stupid' accent that is so 'funny'. I am scared that every time I say something or do something that I am not good enough, not worthy enough of you. Of the rest of the world who look down with such condescending eyes, who tell me I should have a prettier face, a whiter smile, that I should wear make up to make myself look better and solve my problems. That I should be smarter and slimmer and should dance and like everything that everybody else does. That I should just 'Go with the flow.'

You know what? Only dead fish go with the flow. I am not a dead fish. I am a human being just like you. I should be treated the same. We are all human. We are all different. We are all the same...

Awesome artwork by talented reader Tyler - THANK YOU!

Cathy says:
Wow... so much food for thought here! Do YOU have an opinion on what Zara has said? Should we conform, go with the flow? Or celebrate our perfect imperfection? COMMENT BELOW to have YOUR say!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

JASMINE: FIND YOUR COLOURS!

Growing up is hard to do... but Aussie reader Jasmine navigated her punk-girl teens and came out the other side feeling confident, bright and ready for a very different look! Read her awesome story here...

Jasmine says:
Growing up I always felt super uncomfortable with myself. When I got to about ten years old, I turned tomboy - this was influenced a lot by my new found love of punk music, and for a while it felt right. The thing is, once you've established yourself as a bit of a misfit, it's hard to break out of that mould. It felt like if I was any more different, I would be shining the beacon of bullying on myself even more than it already was. So... for years I stuck with being a tomboy, even though I wanted the world to know I really loved Hello Kitty, pretty dresses and the colour pink!

When I left school, I realised I no longer had to feel pressured to stay the same. I didn't have the same eyes on me, and nobody was there to question any sudden changes. It wasn't easy - I'd been wearing black jeans and band t-shirts for eight years, so putting on a skirt felt odd to say the least! Slowly, I gained the confidence to get girlier each day, and it felt a little bit more comfortable as I went along. I gained a lot of inspiration from amazing people online and wove all of that inspiration into my own style.

The fact that I loved pink never wavered. I had dyed my hair lots of colours in the tomboy years, but had never quite had the courage to do my whole head of hair. Now, I decided to bite the bullet and do it. Bleach sucks, and so does getting hair dye everywhere, but the end result was worth it! I love pink so much that I have had bright pink hair for four years now - I'm twenty one - and I even colour my eyebrows pink to match! Perhaps because of my sense of fashion, which is a mix-up of vintage/ pin-up/ rockabilly, and my hair, I get a lot of interesting looks from people. Most people are nice, but even if they're not it doesn't matter; this is the only way I really feel like me.

I'd like to encourage anyone I can to be their own authentic selves, whether that means dying your hair blue, pink like me, brown... wearing quirky dresses, wearing big boots or just wearing a different hat every day! Sometimes it is hard to feel comfortable enough to truly express ourselves, but take it one step at a time. You will find your colours, just as I found mine!

Cathy says:
I love this post SOOOO much. Jasmine first messaged me to tell me how much my books meant to her during her early teens - which meant a huge amount to me. I also loved her distinctive style, and asked her to share the story with you... I hope you like, and hope you agree that being yourself is ultra important, whatever form that may take. Do YOU have a unique and unusual style? Would you LIKE to? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Friday, 19 May 2017

ARE YOU A WATER BABY?

We asked readers to tell us how they felt about swimming... this is what they said!

Katie says:
I'm a real water baby, I love a dip now and then. I get the urge to be in the water from my father - he's a surfer who has won competitions! He takes me surfing and body boarding, teaches me safety and jumps into the waves with me. I love water parks - few things fill me with adrenaline as much as sliding down a water slide! Water itself gives me an energy I often forget I have. One minute I'm calmly floating on my back, the next I am splashing around!

Jo says:
I go to a training club on a Monday morning before school and also on a Thursday evening. I could go more, but I'm fifteen and school is quite intense right now, so I choose not to compete or train more than twice a week. I love swimming because it feels like nobody is judging me (even though lots of the club DO swim competitively and the coach likes to push us, at the end of the day, to me, it's just me doing my best.) I find it very relaxing after the stress of school, and also love the way it stretches and works my whole body.

Kym says:
I used to be in a swim club in my early teens. As I got older, I started body boarding, but I haven't done that in a while now, though I still have the board somewhere!

Francesca says:
I LOVE swimming. I go twice a week, for a one hour session and then for an hour and a half session. I also teach now, for an hour on Wednesdays, and swim competitively for the Nuneaton Dolphins. We have so much fun!

Cara says:
I am quite a strong swimmer and I go to the pool once a week for a club with people of all ages. It's mainly a fun thing but the aim is to improve your stroke and style, and I started going as I wanted to learn how to put my head underwater when doing front crawl and breast stroke. I learned that and in the process I got the swimming bug! I like it because even when the pool is busy it often feels like it's just you swimming, if that makes any sense!

Violet says:
I haven't been near a pool in years, but I used to go swimming once a week. I don't want to swim competitively or anything but I want to swim for me, and I want to swim well. My mum was a very good swimmer when she was younger, so maybe she's passed that ability on - I have to be good at something, right? It's great exercise for the whole body as well as being relatively easy as the water supports your weight. Maybe it's just me, as I have to take my hearing aids out to get in the water, but I find swimming a very calm and quiet experience. I can't be distracted by conversation or music, everything is echoey and muffled. It can be quite meditative!

Angela says:
I love swimming but hate public pools - strip lights and chlorine and wriggling out of a wet costume in a tiny cubicle. I like to swim in the sea, I love the taste of salt on my lips and the way the water lifts you with the tide. There is an outdoor lido where I live too, and though it's not heated it's great to swim in on a hot day.

Fab illustrations by the very talented Helen Swan - thank you Helen!

Cathy says:
I love this! Swimming is my favourite kind of exercise, and I dream of living near a pool so I could go more often! Do YOU love to swim - or hate it? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BELLA: WRITING IS MY PASSION

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Bella has a dilemma for CHERRY COSTELLO to solve...

Bella says:
Writing has always been my passion, my talent, my destiny. Teachers at parent's evening say so and tell me I am a born writer. I know that now is the time to start writing real books - but I don't know how. I know how to write the book, but the whole aspect of publishing seems so daunting. I don't know how many times I need to do another draft, or how long it should take me to write it, or who to approach to publish it. Who will illustrate the cover? Will it cost money? These are the things that go round and round in my head. Please help!

Cherry says:
Writing is my dream too, and I have done some research and read up on this, so although I am not published yet either, I hope I can help. First of all, get writing - plan and write your book, and polish and re-draft until you are sure it's a good as it possibly can be. For some, the writing part can be rapid - 'Na No Mi Ro' month has proved it's possible to write a book in a month - but for most authors it takes a lot longer, anything from several months to years! We are all different, so find your own pace and write 'from the heart' as it will show! Next, get a copy of 'The Writers And Artists Yearbook'. This is in all big libraries or available in bookshops to buy, and it lists all UK publishers and agents and tells you which will accept manuscripts and how to present and send your work - it's invaluable. The advice is to find an agent and let them approach the publishers, as many publishers will not deal with unsolicited manuscripts these days. Then it is a waiting game to see if an agent likes your work, and after that to see if a publisher does. If you get as far as a publishing deal, they will pay YOU money and will help with any editing and design, book cover, marketing etc. In short, they do all the tricky stuff for you. Remember that many authors try for years and years before hitting it lucky, so be patient and determined. Self-publishing is a route some take now, and this can be a good step, but it is a different thing and it DOES cost you money, and I am not up to speed on how this works. You could investigate though! Good luck Bella... I hope the dream comes true for both of us!

Cathy says:
Great advice from Cherry. It takes me three to six months to write a book, in general, and I agree that persistence and resilience is essential. Good luck! Have YOU ever dreamed of writing a book, or do YOU have good advice for Bella? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

ELOISE WILLIAMS: GASLIGHT

My lovely friend ELOISE WILLIAMS has a fabulous new book out - GASLIGHT! I asked her to tell you a bit about it...

Eloise says:
Hello Cathy's readers! How are you? Well, I hope!

I don't know about you, but I have always loved the theatre. The lights, the excitement, the stories, the actors and the song and dance of it all. I loved it so much that I went to Drama College and worked as an actor for over a decade. Then, when I got a bit older, I realised I actually liked writing much more and I stopped treading the boards and very happily hid away in a little cottage by the sea where I wrote stories and walked my dog Watson Jones on the beach.

Little did I know that one day I'd be on stage in front of a thousand children talking about myself and my books. Gulp! That's exactly what happened earlier this year at The Biggest Book Show On Earth. You'd think that after years of acting I wouldn't be nervous but I had a serious case of stage fright and guess who was there to talk me through it and give me confidence? The lovely Cathy!

I told Cathy all about Nansi, my main character in GASLIGHT which is a mystery thriller set in Victorian times. Nansi isn't nervous at all when she's on stage and dreams of being a star one day. She works at the Empire Theatre for Pernicious Sid, but he makes her play little girl parts even though she is fourteen and he also makes her go out stealing so that she can earn money to find her mother who has gone missing.

'My mother disappeared on the 6th of September 1894. I was found at the docks in Cardiff lying like a gutted fish at the water's edge...'

It's a dark tale for only the bravest of readers and Nansi has more courage in her little finger than I have in my whole body, so I was extremely happy to have had Cathy there as a friend to see me through a knee-knocking, fingernail-biting, deep-breath-taking scary time. And, in the end, I loved it! So, thanks to Cathy! **Sound of applause.**

Cathy says:
It was fab to meet Eloise at The Biggest Bookshow On Earth this year - and though she was a bit nervous beforehand, she really blew that crowd away! Check out GASLIGHT... it's amazing! Have YOU got a fave book just now? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 15 May 2017

MEGAN: ADAPTING YOUR BLOG TO MAKE YOU HAPPY!

Blogger Megan has some great advice on how to keep the passion and enthusiasm going when running a blog... awesome ideas!

Megan says:
Being a blogger is hard when you have to come up with creative ideas and keep up with a routine, but if you're not happy with your blog it's just not worth the effort. You should enjoy it! Here are five tips for staying happy with your blog by making a few simple changes!

Tip #1: Rethink your content and topics
If you're not feeling positive about your blog, perhaps you're just not passionate about your topics anymore? Create a mind-map of all the topics you write about currently; stemming out from these, state whether or not you're happy with how often you write on this subject. The areas you want to write about less often are topics you should re-think.

Tip #2: Encourage feedback
If you're unsure about changing things, ask for feedback! I like to ask a few questions at the end of each post for my readers to answer. Ask your audience things like: 'Did you enjoy this post?' 'How would you improve this week's post?' or 'Would you like to see new topics next week?' Alternatively, put a poll onto your blog and ask readers to vote!

Tip #3: Change up your design
The design/ layout of your blog can say a lot about your content. I like to change the background every season, but some prefer to keep a background they feel fits well with their content. If you're making content changes, re-design the background too and portray a different mood! Make your design look more sophisticated to appeal to an older audience, or go quirky and colourful for a cool look or a younger audience...

Tip #4: Re-write your description and 'about me' page
Once you've changed your content, it's time to introduce these changes to your readers! Start by making a few notes about what you will be writing about and include a few funny or interesting facts about you. An interesting description and 'about me' page engages your reader and tells them what they should be expecting to read.

Tip #5: Take your time
Changes don't happen overnight - it may take time to adjust and your current readers may take time to adapt too! That's why changing things gradually is a good plan. A few subtle changes here and there can bring a new feel to the blog without the drama of jumping from what you used to do to something totally different. If you want a drastic change, then perhaps starting a whole new blog might be best? If you just want to liven up your existing blog, then slow steps are key.

Good luck - and if you want to see the kind of things I write about in my own blog, take a look - and tell me what you think! 

Cathy says:
Great tips... for me too! Do YOU blog... or would you LIKE to? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

SARITA: FIRST CRUSH...

Reader Sarita opens her heart about a childhood friendship that evolved into a crush... or maybe something more?

Sarita says:
We were childhood friends, he and I. Not best friends, but we knew each other well. We had a bittersweet relationship where we cared for each other yet hated each other sometimes too.

Fast forward seven years, and the two of us were put in the same section, the same learning group. We quickly became best friends, always there for one another. Many of my other friends told me he liked me, perhaps as more than a friend, but I dismissed this. After all, I wasn't that special, I thought. Then, thanks to the wingman-ship of another friend, he asked me out. To say I was shocked was an understatement - I was beyond bewildered.

I did not want to hurt him, but nor did I feel able to get into something serious when I knew I wasn't ready for a relationship. I didn't share his feelings. I was still too young, so I told him to wait. Three years went by, and in that time... somewhere in the middle, perhaps - my feelings began to change. I couldn't help but smile at the sight of him, comfort him in his grief. I don't know if it was love, but it was definitely something. Immature or not, it was definitely something for me. A crush, a love... who knows?

What happened? Well, there came a point where we gave up on 'us' ever being a thing. He just moved on. He fell for someone new, and the first person to know about his crush on that new person was me. What could I do? After all, we had started off as nothing more than friends. I once thought - and I still do - that I may never truly love someone. I always imagined things would turn out like the stories in a CC book, but maybe that's what maturity does for us, it makes us believe that books are not like real life, that perhaps they are just an escape for people like me.

This was the story of a childhood friendship that turned into something more... my first and only crush. A story of confused emotions, a tingle of love maybe... and definitely heartache.

Artwork by Cathy Cassidy.

Cathy says: 
Sarita's story is bittersweet indeed... and it will be familiar to many of us, especially when trying to steer a safe course through the perils of friendship and first love when we are still trying to get to grips with our own feelings. Have YOU ever had a crush? Tell us more in a COMMENT BELOW!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

KATIE: GEEK LIKE ME!

Reader Katie talks about friendship and why finding a friendship soul-mate can be so awesome...


Katie says:
I do like people, but it's hard to find people I really connect with. Or it was, until I met my best friend Ashlan, one of my favourite humans.Yes, I did literally pick her and say 'I like you,' or at least it seems that way!

When I met Ashlan, it was in the first few days of Year Nine, which means we have now been friends for three years. Ashlan was reading a book a day, almost exclusively fantasy. The reading fascinated me, we realised we were both geeky fan girls and the rest is history! We are both Ravenclaws, and fan girls, and the fact that we don't fan girl about the same things makes no difference. We still find plenty of memes to tag each other in, and Ashlan got me into anime. It's really good - well, the mushy stuff I watch, anyway! Ashlan just KNOWS. She is a very intuitive person. Often I think she is actually a ninja, because she's so focused on her wonderful (like, seriously amazing) drawing, or her manga, or her computer game, but she can still sense when she needs to prick her ears up. I used to tease Ash, when she was absolutely crazy about dragons, by spontaneously yelling 'DRAGON!' and watching her head swivel, her ears prick up and her nose start twitching.

Ashlan is my Dragon Girl - fierce, fiery, can give you a smouldering death stare. She is also beautiful and sparkly inside and out! My favourite Ashlan memory is taking her to Wellington (the captial of New Zealand, where we live) for her birthday. We went to WOW (World of Wearable Arts) together and were awed by the costumes. We had lunch, shopped for books and took a tour of the workshop responsible for many of the special effects in movies such as The Hobbit. Ashlan and I sit together every day at morning break and lunch even though for two years we haven't been in the same classes - she's so good at the arty subjects, and they are not my forte! Ashlan is intelligent and beautiful - she even gave her Rapunzel locks a pixie cut and her hairstyle is PHENOMENAL - but most of all she is kind. I thank my lucky stars every day that I have my Dragon Girl in my life!

Cathy says:
Awww, this is so cool! Do YOU have an amazing friend who deserves a special shout-out on DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW or email me through the 'email Cathy' link on the homepage of the CC website, www.cathycassidy.com to tell me more!

Monday, 8 May 2017

YOUR STARS FOR MAY!

Skye Tanberry has been consulting the stars again to see what the month of May has in store for you... read your horoscope and see if the future is looking rosy!

TAURUS (Apr 20 - May 20)
May could be a long and tricky month unless you swallow your pride and make the first move to patch up a minor row... because unless you do, minor could become major! Let go of the moral high ground and remember why friends and family matter... and reach out with that olive branch.

GEMINI (May 21 - June 20)
You're full of good ideas just now, and if you can combine that creativity with good planning you could be in a position to make the most of it all. Apply this creative energy to school/ study too... it could pay off in the long run. A friend's happiness is hanging in the balance this month - can YOU be the one to support and encourage her?

CANCER (June 21 - July 22)
There may be a few bumps in the road this month, but if you stay focused and steer a steady path, you'll avoid the danger spots. Although not everything is going your way, with a positive attitude you will get the very best out of life and friends will be drawn to you. Can't be bad! Stay organised and your studies should keep ticking over nicely too.

LEO (July 23 - Aug 22)
Friendship, study, romance and life plans are all running according to plan at last, which is great - but sometimes just a tiny bit dull. Look out for the good things in every day and you'll find yourself spotting new opportunities and openings - just the thing to liven things up!

VIRGO ( Aug 23 - Sept 22)
There's a danger you may be feeling blue this month, but this will pass, so refuse to let it derail you. Friendships are well starred and there's a chance you'll find yourself so much in demand you can't quite keep up! Enjoy the fun - and keep an eye out for an unexpected love interest, too!

LIBRA (Sept 23 - Oct 22)
You've had a few dilemmas recently, and although things are pretty much sorted you are still feeling confused and undecided. Shrug off the tension and the anxiety about getting things wrong - an uncomplicated, positive attitude will attract more fun and success into your life. Study is taking up a LOT of your time just now, but the hard work will be rewarded.

SCORPIO (Oct 23 - Nov 21)
You're in a bit of a rose-tinted haze right now - long may it last! Your ability to see the best in people and find fun in the least obvious places is infectious... soon, you may find yourself the centre of an extra cool, supportive and fun-loving group of friends. Value them and they'll stick with you!

SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22 - Dec 21)
You have a stubborn streak at times, and this may be one of them! Family or friends are trying to push you in a certain direction, and you're digging your heels in... but something's got to give! Try to step back and see the situation clearly so you can make any decisions carefully, especially where school/ college/ work is concerned - this could affect your future!

CAPRICORN (Dec 22 - Jan 19)
You're feeling shy, but any attempts to build up your self esteem and confidence will pay off now - a new friend could take you in some very exciting directions if you just come out of your shell enough to give things a chance. Don't let anxieties cloud your judgement... this could be a brand new start!

AQUARIUS (Jan 20 - Feb 18)
If you've been daydreaming about a long-lost crush - or even a past friendship - beware. Sometimes, things finish for a reason, a raking up the past just means you have to handle all those awkward issues and problems all over again. Let go of the dreams and allow yourself to move forward - that's where the fun lies, promise!

PISCES (Feb 19 - Mar 20)
Drop the drama queen tendencies and resist the temptation to over-react this month. Your emotions are very close to the surface, but blowing things out of proportion will complicate life and cause trouble where there's just no need. Deep breaths and stay calm! Attention to study and a little hard work will pay off big time.

ARIES (Mar 21 - Apr 19)
Your friends may be driving you a little crazy right now... minor squabbles and indecisions are all around. Take the initiative and keep things rolling - your friends will thank you for it, and it could open up new opportunities and experiences too. School may be stressful - but you can handle it!

Cathy says:
Do YOUR stars ring true for May? Or are they way off this time? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 24 April 2017

JADE: APRIL SHOWERS!

We've had a great April, but life isn't always sunshine - reader Jade has some ideas for how to handle those April showers!

Jade says:
Everytime April rolls around it's the same. Flowers come out, the sun peeks from behind a cloud and I fool myself that it's summer. I start planning picnics and trips to the seaside, and then the sun vanishes and the rain sets in, and I realise that I've fallen for it again. This year I am determined not to let a few spring rain showers stop me from feeling upbeat and happy... I have a plan, and I am willing to share it!

* Rain showers are a part of spring, so don't try to fight them... dress the part! Have a light raincoat packed away in a bag that you can slip on when it's wet, and carry on as usual! I've got a yellow one with toggles that looks a bit like something a fisherman might wear - it makes me feel happy every time I put it on! Wellies and umbrellas are great too... get out there an conquer the elements!

* Wellies are essential if there's a real downpour because there is nothing worse than soggy feet. Choose a bright, cheery pair! Rekindle your childhood days and jump in puddles, splash through streams and squelch through the mud... once you're wet, you're wet, so just go for it and enjoy the sensations! You can always warm up later with a hot bath or shower!

* Take your camera or smartphone out and capture some beautiful images for Instagram or Snapchat. Raindrops on glass or on the shiny surface of a leaf, rain splashing into puddles, the bright colours of umbrellas and wellies... make it a project!

* Take a walk in the woods if you really want to be outside and it's too wet - the trees will shelter you from the worst of it, and woodlands are so pretty at this time of year. There's something magical about woods in the rain! Equally, watching the rain fall onto a lake, river or canal is very soothing.

* Ever tried singing in the rain? Or dancing? It has to be done! Once you get going it is exhilarating and funny... and addictive! Turn your face up to the sky and let the rain slide over your skin. It's supposed to be really good for the complexion!

* Too wet to go out? Don't be sad, think of the summer flowers being watered! This is a perfect day for snuggling inside with a good book, your favourite hot drink and a head full of dreams... and remember, those sunny days will be back soon!

* If all else fails, watch a movie... Singing In the Rain if you love musicals and retro stuff with a rainy theme, or just pick Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid for watery fun and loads of nostalgia!

Cathy says:
This is a great list from Jade... I will definitely take some advice from this on a rainy day! Do YOU like the rain or do you let it get to you? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 21 April 2017

TAYLOR: THE BOOK THAT HELPED ME...

Reader Taylor explains how CC books have helped him to battle an eating disorder...
Trigger warning: mentions of anorexia/ bulimia in this post.

Taylor says:
This sketch is something I drew recently to illustrate how I think Summer from SUMMER'S DREAM might have been feeling when her illness began to worsen - under pressure, afraid, lost, and with a very distorted view of her own body. I myself am (I think) now recovered from bulimia and borderline anorexia, and at my worst this image was how I felt - and what I saw when I looked in a mirror. I imagine Summer would be just the same.

I identify with Summer more than I would like to admit. It's almost as though we are the same person, except that I was - or am - an actor/ singer rather than a dancer. I actually had CC books recommended to me by my therapist, because they were what her daughter was reading. The books have really helped me to get through those horrible first few months of recovery.

SUMMER'S DREAM will always be a very special book for me. It - and the later books in the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series which follow Summer's story as she slowly recovers - is just an incredible and honest representation of an eating disorder and I am very grateful for that, because it made me feel less alone and that there was hope for me. Thank you, CC!

Cathy says:
Thank YOU Taylor for such an honest and open account of your struggle and what the book SUMMER'S DREAM has meant to you. I LOVE the drawing, which is very powerful, and I am so glad you're on the path to recovery now! Is there a CC book that has meant a great deal to YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!