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!