Tuesday, 31 January 2017

CLARE: I FEEL LIKE I'M INVISIBLE

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Clare has a worry for Cherry Costello to solve...

Clare says:
Lately I've been feeling invisible, like people don't know I exist at all. Our family move around a lot and I've only been at this school for a year. I watch my classmates laugh and chat, but I feel so left out. I have no best friend, I'm just part of a group, and I have nothing interesting or clever to add to conversations. I want to fit in. I find it easy to make friends, but once I have them I feel fake and attention seeking, as though I don't deserve them. My friends are all sporty and I prefer reading - how can I fit in more?

Cherry says:
I'm shy too, so I understand the feeling of being on the edge, feeling worried that you have nothing cool to add to the group. When I first moved to Somerset, I joined a new friendship group where everyone seemed much cooler and more interesting than me... but I quickly saw that they weren't better, they were just different. As soon as I stopped trying to impress them and be someone/ something I wasn't, real friendships began to form. It sounds a bit mad, but if you believe in yourself, others will too, and if you're low in confidence others will pick up on this. OK, so your friends are sporty and you're not - how about finding something that all of you might enjoy? Ice skating, a bike ride to the country, a yoga class? And try lending them your favourite books to see if you can find some common ground there... you might be surprised to find a few of them are keen! Friendship is always a two-way process, and it sounds as though you've put yourself on the sidelines just recently. Step forward and get involved - make it clear that you're not invisible, not sidelined. Be a part of this friendship group and you'll find the rewards are well worth the effort.

Cathy says:
Good advice from Cherry - is there anything YOU would add? COMMENT BELOW to add your suggestions for Clare!

Monday, 30 January 2017

HOBBIES I LOVED AND LOST!

Readers share their memories of childhood hobbies they loved… and then lost! Read on...

Cait says:
I had a lot of hobbies when I was younger - I was the kind of kid who wanted to have a go at everything. Dance, table tennis, piano, karate... I tried it all, and annoyingly, I loved it all too. Karate was one hobby I still miss... a draughty hall, a load of people of all ages in strange silky black suits that (my parents complained) cost a fortune... and a routine of warm-ups and kattas I could still do in my sleep. I worked my way up through several belt colours, though I lost most of those prized belts when we moved house recently. I took part in several regional tournaments too and won a shield and several medals. I think I stopped going when I was fourteen - I was busy with other stuff by then - but it was a great way to keep fit and build confidence and I do miss it sometimes!


Gracie says:
When I was little I was always dancing around to Strictly Come Dancing and Lazy Town. I started ballet and tap dancing lessons and really enjoyed it at first, but it was very strict and I wanted a bit of fun too. We had an open day show and Mum and Dad thought my expression said it all… I clearly wasn't happy at all. I didn't go any more after that, but five years later I joined PQA Academy for Performing Arts and I do dance, singing and acting. It's totally amazing - I enjoy every minute and I'm doing something I really enjoy. They teach you confidence, too! I have even performed at Her Majesty's theatre in London, live on stage. I highly recommend it! So if you try something and it isn't what you hoped for, don't give up... if I hadn't given up dance lessons when I was younger I might never have found the right niche for me! Things happen for a reason!

Blue says:
I started drama and acting at the age of five and gave it up aged seventeen; that's a long time to keep up a hobby! I'd sacrificed other activities such as Brownies to keep going, and there were two simmers I spent at the theatre for two hours a day taking part in productions. At sixteen, I had to leave the youth theatre as I was then too old, but I still studied drama at school and won the Higher Drama award that year. I wanted to be a drama teacher. I applied to do an acting course at my drama teacher's old college but I didn't get in, and that's where it started to fall apart. I lost all confidence in my acting abilities and didn't even have the youth theatre to buoy my self-esteem. I moved to a new town so I can't even volunteer at the youth theatre, which was something I'd considered… I have social anxiety, so joining a new group is a huge NO. I was sad to give up drama but it did make way for new hobbies like drawing and writing. It's the circle of life… old hobbies die and new hobbies take their place!

Cathy says:
I love this... I had a few hobbies I tried as a kid and then gave up on, including ballet, piano lessons and riding. Lack of cash was the main reason for giving them up, alas, but drawing, writing, reading and daydreaming were low-cost hobbies that have never let me down! Have YOU had a hobby you later dropped? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

BROKEN HEART CLUB... SHARE THE LOVE!

Readers share their reviews of BROKEN HEART CLUB... if you haven't read it yet, you really need to - and it's out in paperback NOW!


Hannah says:
I bought BROKEN HEART CLUB in April 2016, as soon as it came out in hardback - I went to a bookshop signing with two friends especially to get it. I love BROKEN HEART CLUB - it is my favourite CC book, better even than the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series. My favourite character is definitely Andie... I love her personality, the way she dresses in bright colours and is so creative and bubbly. This book was so different from your others - full of surprises - I can't say much more than that as I don't want to give any spoilers, but trust me, it's gripping. I liked the fact there was some romance but not too much! I hope there are more CC books like this one!

Jemma says:
I am twelve and I have JUST finished BROKEN HEART CLUB and it is so, so amazing. My heart was beating so fast when Ryan couldn't see Miss Smith through the window and when she wasn't answering the door. I was so happy when Ryan and Eden got together (and possibly a little jealous!) and overjoyed that the Heart Club got back together again. I was almost in tears at the end, though! Whoa! There were so many things I loved about BROKEN HEART CLUB... and all of the CC books, really! They are just so creative and cool. Sigh!

Katie says:
If you ever need a reminder of how important friendship and HARRY POTTER are, read BROKEN HEART CLUB. I never expected that book to be so real! I understood everything, from the love of cheese and pineapple pizza to the should-I shouldn't-I respond to emails. I even had a friend called Andee... she moved away and her emails stopped coming. I loved learning about the 1000 paper cranes - a powerful snippet of history. If only I could make one! Luckily there's a guide in the back of the BROKEN HEART CLUB book. I held onto it until it was overdue from the library so I could practice! I could not, would not pick a favourite character, but if pushed I will choose Rocket the dog. He was a lover. Thank goodness he especially loved ice cream! Read BROKEN HEART CLUB because it's what happens in real life!

Cathy says:
Loving these reviews! BROKEN HEART CLUB is out in paperback now, so grab a copy and see what you've been missing out on. Or, to add YOUR review to those above, just COMMENT BELOW!

ZARIN: WINTERTIDE

Reader Zarin shares her thoughts and feelings about winter in this evocative and dreamy post!

Zarin says:
Outside, all I can see is snow. Snow here, snow there, snow everywhere as I look through the stilled glass of my window. The trees are draped with snowy tinsel, rooftops slumbering peacefully beneath a blanket of snow and I'm just here, gazing at this wintry utopia. Something tells me I have to capture this beautiful, iced winter moment in words. I get my notebook, feel its soft moleskin cover, open it to a blank page.

And that's it, I am ready to write, while the wintry zephyr whistles away.

I can feel the words dancing from my mind onto the snowy blanket of the page. Words dance like the snowflakes outside. When I'm writing, I feel how magical this wintertide truly is. Each word I choose helps me to find its hidden charm, and flickers of joy spread over me. Writing is what makes me happy, especially in winter, and the snowflakes are the words, each word as unique and deceptive as each snowflake.

And I think that's beautiful.

I open my window and let the snowflakes fly in, until they are doing the loop-de-loop in my attic bedroom. I cup my hands as if ready to catch a snowflake, a miniscule, idyllic snowflake. Each one is fragile, but when they come together and interlock, look how strong they are... as strong as ice. No-one can break my words, they shall never be forgotten, never defeated.

Words which I love, words which are my passion, words which shall make me the writer I've always wanted to be.

Being a writer is all I've ever dreamt of. The magic of manipulating words into artful pages, pages which people turn to in order to discover meaning. There is nothing better in writing than making people feel something. Making yourself feel something, the way I feel the magic of winter wash over my heart, my mind, my soul. Winter is a beautiful abyss of pure bliss. But writing in winter, that's my beautiful abyss of pure bliss. The words resonate through me and with me, creating a picture through me and for me. Winter creates a home for me through snowflakes and words.

I let my pencil linger, gliding upon the page, as I reminisce that charm of wintertide.

Cathy says:
Loving the poetic feel of this piece... and the joy and enthusiasm for words and writing! Do YOU find winter inspiring? In what way? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 27 January 2017

CHINESE NEW YEAR - THE ROOSTER!

Chinese New Year begins on Saturday 28th Jan and lasts for two weeks... we look at what 2017, the year of the Rooster, might mean for you... and how it is celebrated!

2017 is a Fire Rooster Year - combining the symbol of the rooster with the element of fire. This combination only occurs every 60 years. If you were born in 1993 or 2005, you are a Rooster according to Chinese astrology. If you were born in a Rooster year, it pays to take extra care in 2017! Roosters are generally active, fun and extravert, sometimes attention seeking or coming to life in the spotlight. Often, Roosters are very health conscious and sporty, though they can also be sensitive to stress. Roosters make loyal and devoted friends.

The year of the Rooster should have a more calculated and practical mood than 2016... as long as world leaders keep their fiery emotions in check! Whatever happens, the year will see powerful developments in the world at large. On a more personal level, the Year of the Rooster can bring new opportunities for each of us, helping us to solve longstanding problems and dilemmas.

How do the Chinese celebrate their New Year? In the run up to the 28th, the home is cleaned and shopping is done in preparation for the holiday. Decorations such as red lanterns and banners are put up and families enjoy special meals and give special red envelopes containing money to children. Families traditionally stay up late on New Year's Eve, to 'keep watch over the year'. It is believed that what is done on Chines New Year's Day can affect luck for the whole year, so an effort is made to make it as positive as possible. Fireworks and firecrackers are part of the drama, though some big Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai have banned them as too noisy and dangerous. Elsewhere, the use of firecrackers is still going strong! Lion and dragon dances may be watched on New Year's Day, and British cities such as London, Manchester, Liverpool and others with a big Chinese population, stage these entertainments too. Traditionally, people put on new clothes and greetings are given. In China, it is customary to offer gifts to the ancestors. On the 15th day of the festival, lanterns are released into the sky, or set adrift on rivers, lakes or the sea, and New Year Celebrations close.

Enjoy Chinese New Year, whether you are a Rooster or not!

Cathy says:
Do YOU know YOUR Chinese zodiac sign? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

JESSICA: A GUIDING LIFE!

Reader Jessica tells us about the part the Brownie/Guides movement has played in her life - and why you might like to give it a try!
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Jessica says:
Guiding is a massive part of my life, and has been since I was seven, when I first joined the Brownies along with one of my best friends. I remember feeling unsure about it all, but I went back all the same! The night I made my Brownie promise was so much fun - I did it on a local hospice bus, which has to be one of the weirder places I've seen to make a promise!

Brownies was amazing, but it was Guides that really showed me what I could achieve. I moved up from Brownies to Guides at age ten. My unit meets at out local outdoor centre, which is only for  Girl guiding. We have an indoor space there, but also a huge woodland, a natural hide, a shop, a zipwire and an adventure course. In the summer, we play rounders and football, and sometimes go outside to listen to the owls. This year, we actually worked out where their nest was, which felt like quite an accomplishment!

Two summers ago, I went on an international camp called Peak 2015, which was held in the grounds of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life - there, I tried activities like branding, balloon modelling, archery and abseiling. I also conquered my fear of heights, which I was so proud of. I am now the oldest in my unit and help out at at my old Brownie pack which is lots of fun! I am also working towards one of the highest accolades a Guide can achieve, the Baden Powell Award. Guiding has been life changing for me - it has shown me that I can do anything and be whoever I want to be. If you are unsure about trying it, please do - there really is something for everyone there, and it can take you anywhere.

Cathy says:
Jessica's post makes me wish I'd been a Brownie or a Guide - I remember loving the old-fashioned brown uniform but there were no packs near me back then. Have YOU ever been a Brownie or a Guide? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

MIA: YEAR SIX IS GETTING TO ME...

Problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and this week Summer Tanberry has some words of advice for reader Mia...

Mia says:
I am not looking forward to 2017 - there is just too much going on. We have a new head teacher at school and important tests looming up, plus a move to secondary after the summer. I am in Year Six and I am meant to be able to handle all this, but I am really not coping. Please help!

Summer says:
Year Six is an important year, and a time of change - which can be stressful. Having a new head teacher has unsettled you - things have been familiar and 'safe' for a long time, but now they are likely to change fast. Don't panic - lots of the changes may be positive ones, and you are more than able to rise to the challenge... give the new head a chance and get to know them. Tests - especially if they are SATs or similar - can be a worry, as schools strive to get good results and students can feel very pressured. It's worth remembering that SATs are a test of certain maths and grammar skills, and NOT an indication of your intelligence, creativity, talent or worth as a human being. Do you best in studying for the tests, but do not judge yourself by the results... you are worth a lot more than that. As for moving up to secondary school, it may seem daunting now, but as the year rolls on you will find you're more than ready for the challenge. Your class will do taster visits and you'll get a chance to meet your new teachers and check out those new subjects. 2017 is a big year for you, but you are more than capable of riding the wave of change, I promise - enjoy!

Cathy says:
Uplifting words from Summer - do you agree? If YOU have any advice to add, COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

MEABH: STARTING A BLOG!

Have you ever wished you had a blog but not been sure of how to start? Reader and blogger Meabh has some top advice!

Meabh says:
The very first thing you should know before starting your blog is why you're doing it - for the passion or the fun, hopefully, and not for the fame or the followers! Do it for yourself. You are not likely to get instant fame or success, so think of it instead as a way to have a little corner of the internet to share your thoughts!

1. Decide what hosting platform you're going to use to set up your blog. The most popular ones are currently Wordpress and Blogspot - I chose Wordpress but Blogspot is also very popular and easy to use. Read some reviews and road-test a few platforms before you make your choice and set your blog up. Better still, if you know a friend or relative who has a blog, ask them for their feedback and advice!

2. Choose a name for your blog! Try to make it original and quirky, so that it will stick in people's minds - I failed at this to begin with, calling my blog 'Meabh's Blog' - so original. Not! I later changed the name to Meabh's Mind, which is a bit more creative, but your blog name doesn't have to include your actual name - there are trillions of creative names that you could use!

3. Do you want to keep your blog anonymous, or have your name out there in the open for anyone to see? My first name is on my blog, but I keep my surname private. Equally, for net safety reasons, be  aware of security and don't tell readers the town or city you love in. (You can mention the country as this is much less specific!) The same goes for images - are you going to post personal pictures or more general ones? It depends whether you are blogging about your own life and experiences, but always be mindful of net safety.

4. Customise your site and make it yours - add a header and make the background eye catching. Use bright colours for the background to catch the attention of visitors to your blog!

5. Think about the kind of posts you want to publish. Do you want to post DIY projects? Personal problems? Quizzes? Recipes? Even a chapter from that story you're writing? Find a theme to pull it all together.

6. If you are taking photos for your blog, don't worry - you don't need a fancy pants camera. I normally go outside, take the photos on my phone and email them to myself, then open the email on my computer, download them and upload to my blog from there. I am sooooo not a techy person, but this is easy, promise!

The most important thing is that you have fun and stay safe on the internet - now, what are you waiting for?

You can find Meabh's blog here: https://meabhsblog.wordpress.com/

Cathy says:
Ha, wish I'd had Meabh's guide handy when I first started DREAMCATCHER! Would YOU love to have your own blog? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

KATE: COPING WHEN SOMEONE IS IN HOSPITAL

Reader Kate has some top tips on how to stay grounded and calm when someone close to you goes into hospital...

Kate says:
When a close family member - or a friend, perhaps - goes into hospital, for whatever reason, stress levels can rise to frightening levels. Sometimes even the word 'hospital' can bring you to tears, but there are ways you can deal with the pressure and the anxiety that comes with it.

It's normal to panic
Panic attacks in a stressful situation like this are not unusual, so try not to get too scared if they happen. Tell a trusted adult and get some support, because panic may be normal but it isn't good. I found that even just telling a friend and being reassured that it was normal to panic in such situations (especially if you're a hormonal wreck like me!) helped a lot. Bottling up the fears just allows them to grow. If you feel anxiety and panic beginning to take over, tell an adult.

Spend time away from the situation
For me, spending time with my friends doing something I love offered a safe and stress free retreat from a life that seemed to revolve around constant hospital visits. Just stepping away from the pressures of hospital life was a huge relief and I found I could still relax and have fun, if only for a little while. It actually helped to be able to put on a 'mask' for a bit and pretend life was perfect for a few hours without the constant reminders of reality.

Look after yourself
When you're worried about a loved one, looking after yourself is the last thing on your mind, but it matters. If you fall sick you cannot be there to support anyone, after all. Plan healthy meals rather than relying on takeaways and fast food, and offer to cook once or twice a week if you can... it's practical help that will keep everyone on an even keel. Take exercise too - this will help you to disperse feelings of stress and anxiety and stay healthy and strong.

Just be there
Sometimes it feels upsetting to be unable to help the person who is ill, but remember they are in the best place and getting the care they need. What you can do is bring a bit of the outside world in for your loved one, with chat and silly, thoughtful like gifts. It may not feel much, but it will mean the world to the patient.

Remember this won't be forever
Although staying strong when someone you care about is in hospital is very hard, try to remember that this difficult patch will not last forever. Life will go on, and though you may be a little older and wiser, and sometimes sadder, you will cope. We all have to handle ups and downs in this life, and we all come up against heartbreak at times - but there are plenty of happy endings, too. Keep smiling if you can.

Cathy says:
Kate's blog has really hit home for me... 2016 was a year of caring for people I loved and feeling pretty overwhelmed by it all. I could have done with this list! Have YOU ever worried about someone in hospital? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

MARTI: WHY I LOVE SIXTIES FASHION!

Reader Marti explains why she likes the fashion of the sixties so much... and why that era changed things for everyone and turned the fashion world upside-down!


Marti says:
What I love most about the 1960s is how different this period is to any other that had gone before. Skirts were shortened, colours intensified and fashion boundaries were broken. The teenager was born and young women no longer had to dress like younger versions of their mothers. Fashion broke so many rules and came up with so many innovations in the sixties - the now so-popular bikini came into fashion in 1963 and the miniskirt, symbolic of the decade, is still a timeless fashion piece today.

There was so much diversity in what people wore, too! Fashion mirrored the social movements of the time - the early sixties were relatively conservative with styles reminiscent of the late fifties, such as classic prints and knee-length dresses, whereas by the late sixties things had changed beyond all recognition.

It's no surprise that the sixties was a decade of great change in other ways, too - this was the decade when man first walked on the moon, when women gained more equality and when British pop sensations such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones took the world by storm.

Fashion was not about to be left behind. Skirt lengths became ever shorter and men wore tunics and capes and began to grow their hair longer! Many of these styles seemed to come from the streets - suddenly fashion was for everyone, and not just the rich elite who could afford designer clothes. Young designers such as Mary Quant opened shops selling the things young people wanted to wear - youth was leading the way in fashion for the first time ever. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before London stole Paris' position as the centre of the fashion world!

I think my favourite era of the decade is probably the mid point, around 1964-1966. Fashion was at the point where people were choosing how they wanted to dress, and prints were bright but not yet overly busy. Culottes, box-shaped PVC dresses and even paper clothes were popular. This rebellious and energetic vibe is one that inspires me and one I try to carry over into my own fashion choices - only with my own flair, of course! (Wait... aren't flares 1970s?!!! Haha!)


Cathy says:
I remember sixties fashions well - although I was only a small child, there was a real buzz in the air and I vividly remember my aunties in mini dresses, PVC boots and towering beehive hairdos! Do YOU take your fashion inspirations from a particular decade? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 20 January 2017

THE CC CHARACTER WHO IS JUST LIKE ME...

Two readers talk about their favourite Cathy Cassidy character and tell us just why they connect so strongly with them...

Cassia says:
Where do I start? DIZZY is the most relatable book I have ever read. I feel like I have been through many of the same feelings Dizzy experiences... she os a quiet girl but she dreams big, just like me (and probably lots of other girls too!). I travel to a lot of music festivals too because my dad is a sound manager and sometimes I get to help out and work with him. I have met so many amazing people at festivals, people just like Dizzy. Plus... Cathy has got the festival atmosphere exactly right! I also love the book GINGERSNAPS because it has my name in it (as Ginger's sister!) and it is rare to find my name in a book, as it's an unusual one!

Lula says:
I love the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series but especially SUMMER'S DREAM. Firstly, I am a lot like Summer Tanberry. I am ballet mad, I always wear my hair in a bun, I love pink, I dream of performing at the Royal Opera House... and I even have a friend called Tia, like in the story! I couldn't believe it when I spotted that. What are the chances? Next, and this is very spooky, I have actual friends called Summer and Skye! I also love drama and singing very much. I only have one problem with dance - it's hard on my ankles, which often end up injured. Not so good! I like Summer because she is a very determined girl who loves dance and follows her dream in spite of the challenges she faces.

Cathy says:
I love this post - and I agree that the similarities are quite cool for both Cassia and Lula (Summer would LOVE that daisy hairband!). Are YOU just like your favourite CC character? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

SYRA: I HAVE NO FRIENDS!

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and this week Cherry Costello does her best to help reader Syra who is struggling to settle into a new school...

Syra says:
I am like Anya from ANGEL CAKE - I don't fit in. I am Indian, but we've moved to the USA because of my dad's work and I am finding it so hard to settle. I have good English, so that is not the problem, but I am so unhappy because I have no friends (at least Anya had Frankie and Kurt!). I do alas have many mean 'Lily Caldwell' type characters in my life and one lovely 'Dan' character for sure as well. I just need a friend... please help!

Cherry says:
Moving schools - and countries - is probably one of the toughest and most stressful things you can go through. You may have excellent English, but you'll take a while to really work out how an American school works. Right now, talk to your class teacher or a school counsellor and explain how lost and unhappy you are feeling - they can offer extra support and help while you find your feet. In general, try to be as open and friendly as you can - join after school clubs and groups, try out for sports teams, get involved; this way you'll meet a wider circle of students than just those in your class. All schools have their bully/ mean-girl characters - I struggled with one of these for years - but ignoring the nasty comments is the best tactic if you can. As for the boy you like... well, don't give up hope - he may be the friend you're looking for! My first real friend when I moved from Glasgow to Somerset was a boy called Shay, but that's another story, and it brought it's fair share of trouble so we won't go there! Anyway... if you can, relax and take each day as it comes. Smile at everyone, try hard at your work and slowly, things will begin to slot into place. Friendships take time to build, but they are worth the effort, and worth some patience too. If these tactics don't help, speak to your family and get some adult help to sort this out - you need to settle and find a friendship base, and if that means you need a little help along the way, that's fine. Good luck.

Cathy says:
Good advice from Cherry, but what would YOU add to this? COMMENT BELOW to help Syra settle down into her new school and her new life!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

REVIEWS FOR LOOKING GLASS GIRL!

Have YOU read Cathy's thriller LOOKING GLASS GIRL yet? Here are some reviews which might make you wonder what you're waiting for!

Cecelia says:
LOOKING GLASS GIRL is probably the most intricately plotted book by Cathy Cassidy and the one I would recommend above all the others (and I love CC books!). Let's start with the cover. I got the book in hardback, and it is my favourite - that beautiful, Alice-in-Wonderland vintagey style is so pretty and intriguing. It was what made me pick the book out to begin with!The actual book is so well written and is jam packed with Alice imagery... the story is clearly inspired by the classic Lewis Carroll tale. LOOKING GLASS GIRL is a book all girls can relate to... boys, school, friendship and drama. In the story, Alice, Yaz and Elaine have been BFFs since they were tiny, but when Alice is picked for a drama role jealousy breaks things apart. By Year Eight, Alice is all alone and Yaz and Elaine are friends/minions of popular girl Savvy. When Savvy invites Alice to a Wonderland-themed sleepover, things change overnight in a very dramatic way. What will happen to Alice? Can she be best friends with Yaz and Elaine again? Read LOOKING GLASS GIRL to find out!

Romina says:
LOOKING GLASS GIRL was one of those page-turning books - I couldn't stop reading it, and in the end it took me just four days to finish. Alice's story was so relatable it was easy to connect with her, and I liked how you don't find out just how she came to fall until towards the end. I liked the different viewpoints and how Alice's life started out one way and turned out differently, which shows that life can always change for the better, and I liked the ending which was really cute and sad. I would definitely recommend this to my friends!

Rebecca says:
LOOKING GLASS GIRL is a unique spin on the classic ALICE IN WONDERLAND story. It is a more realistic, modern version and looks at real life problems such as bullying. It was an amazing read and I loved it - the way it is set out and planned intrigued me and made me want to read more and more. I was definitely hooked, and the ending was NOT what I had expected! Overall, I think LOOKING GLASS GIRL is an amazing book and is suitable for ages ten and over. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, whether they have read Cathy Cassidy books before or not!

Top artwork by reader Cecelia - how cool? Love the sketch of Alice!

Cathy says:
Aww, thank you Cecelia, Romina and Rebecca... great reviews! If you like your reads to have a page-turning thriller style with a twist in the tail, give LOOKING GLASS GIRL a try! Have YOU read it yet? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! 

Monday, 16 January 2017

MOVIE MONDAYS: MOANA

Reader Rhia checks out the new Disney movie Moana... and tells you whether it should be on your to-watch list!



Rhia says:
I am a longtime fan of Disney films so I have been looking forward to this film for ages. It did not disappoint. It's a PG film, as there are some scary scenes, but overall it is a perfect family film and I know I'd have loved it when I was younger. OK, I admit it, I loved it NOW! Moana is a brave and adventurous teenager, the daughter of a chief of Oceania, who sails away on a daring mission to fulfil a quest and give balance back to her people. She meets the demi-god Maui who becomes her guide and helps her on her voyage. This is an action packed film with lots of drama, as Moana encounters monsters and sprites before fulfilling the quest of her ancestors. She also finds herself along the way.

Moana is a brilliant adventure and the CG animation is amazing. Visually it is my favourite Disney film and I love that Moana is a very modern kind of 'princess' and a great role model for girls - she does not need a prince to rescue her but takes things into her own hands. In fact, there is no prince at all and no romance, and that's fine because it just isn't needed in this enthralling story. See it as soon as you can!

Cathy says:
Ooh... that sounds wonderful! A must-see. Have YOU watched a fab new film recently? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

HOROSCOPES: YOUR YEAR AHEAD!

Skye Tanberry takes a look at what 2017 has in store for each star sign... will your long-term for the coming year predictions ring true?

Capricorn: 23 Dec - 20 Jan
Expect the unexpected - but in a good way! Work is going well and 2017 has the potential to be a transformative year for you. Life may not be plain sailing, but by the time the year closes you will have gained the strength and determination to conquer anything you put your mind to.

Aquarius: 21 Jan - 19 Feb
Adventure is on the cards for 2017, so if you're traveling or just exploring new ideas or skills closer to home, things are looking good. You are still battling old habits and ways of handling things that aren't always good for you, but this could be the year you break the pattern and ditch those old, unhelpful traits for good. Focus on your goals... you can get there!

Pisces: 20 Feb - 20 Mar
The good news is that you won't be quite as skint as usual in 2017, and school/ work progress is looking good too! It's not an easy year, however, and you may find it hard to may key decisions at times because it won't always be clear what's going on behind the scenes. April brings new clarity as you move forward towards your dreams, leaving an older phase of your life behind.

Aries: 21 Mar - 20 Apr
Friendship, romance and school connections are all looking bright this year, which helps to balance things as there may be one or two upheavals on the cards too. Family matters are well starred too, with past strains forgotten and new close links being forged. Beware of acting hastily in March, when a thoughtless action may backfire and lead to heartache.

Taurus: 21 Apr - 20 May
By summer, you will be on top form - looking good, feeling great and making real progress towards achieving one particular dream. By autumn, you will be able to see the path ahead much more clearly and new opportunities will come your way. An unexpected problem may threaten to derail things in the spring - don't ignore it, ask for help and you'll soon be back on track.

Gemini: 21 May - 20 Jun
This year, you'll get a lot of pleasure from the achievements of others - you always care deeply about those around you, and it's a relief to see them thriving. 2017 is not the easy year you have been craving, but you will move slowly forward towards your goals - and by the end of the year things will shift dramatically, making life a whole lot easier all round.

Cancer: 21 Jun - 22 Jul
Health, family and romance are all looking brilliant this year, and summer should see a real burst of energy and creativity which, if harnessed well, may change things in a big way for you. You're learning to see past the obvious and look at things in new ways, which is good news for imagination, innovation and breakthrough ideas.

Leo: 23 Jul - 22 Aug
There's a sense that fate is leading you this year - and big changes are scheduled for late summer, when domestic life turns upside-down, but in a good way! Any plans or projects started now are destined to work out well, and your communication skills will pave the way for new beginnings work or school wise, so be open to subjects and paths you may not have fully considered before.

Virgo: 23-Aug - 22 Sept
A romantic year ahead... which should make a welcome change from 2016! September is a great time for fresh starts, too. While things look rosy for you, someone in the family may be having a tougher time, and this will impact on your relationship with them. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand how they're feeling.

Libra: 23 Sept - 23 Oct
This year is looking upbeat and positive, at least up until mid-October. Travel, adventure and social connections are all stacked in your favour, though romance may not be running quite as smoothly. Money may be in short supply, but fun definitely isn't, so make the most of this and strengthen friendships and family links. Any glitches can soon be ironed out by talking honestly about the issues.

Scorpio: 24 Oct - 22 Nov
You will start the year with hard work and solid slog to keep school work, friendships and family issues all ticking over, but by October everything changes and a time of plenty will unfold when all that hard work begins to pay off. This period of luck in love, work, money and friendships looks set to stay strong for at least a year, so enjoy!

Sagittarius: 23 Nov - 22 Dec
You've been feeling a bit hard done by, working hard while others laze about and enjoy the benefits but this is about to change. Summer will be full of adventure and fun and family matters will feel better than they have in a while. There are still some testing times to be endured along the way, but rewards are waiting too - keep going, it will all be worth it in the end!

Cathy says:
Hmmm... my long-term forecast isn't bad, but not quite as perfect as I'd have liked... story of my life! What are YOU looking forward to in 2017? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

PADDY - NOT QUITE PADDINGTON!

Today is the birthday of Michael Bond, author of the famous series of books about the fictional Paddington Bear. Writer and blogger Malcolm looks back at what that character meant to him...

Malcolm says:
Meet Paddy (right) and his friends, including Martin, a dog named Doug, Squeaker (named on account of a squeezy insert later removed in a life-saving operation) and Laurence. Paddy came into my life forty years ago last Christmas. Something of a consolation prize at the time, he quickly became the bear I treasured most. All these years on, he is still loved, sitting with his companions in a high shelf in the bedroom of our family home in Lancashire.

A consolation prize? I'd best explain! Most summers from 1973 onwards, Mum and Dad would take us to St Ives, Cornwall, a place I loved. For as long as I could remember on those first holidays, there was a Paddington Bear in a shop window on the walk to town from the railway station, and every summer I looked longingly in but understood that he was out of our price range. Dad was a postman and Mum did every job under the sun - mostly cleaning - to help pay the rent on our council house outside Guildford. We were grateful that they managed to save enough to take us for that annual holiday. Besides, the price tag on that Paddington Bear, with his toggle-loop duffle coat, rubber wellies, felt hat and luggage label, seemed to increase every year.

I was hooked on the BBC children's TV cartoon of Paddington, first aired in 1975, having already started reading Michael Bond's stories about this stowaway bear from Darkest Peru. I didn't own many books then (most were borrowed from the library) but Paddington Bear was up there with AA Milne's Winnie The Pooh for me, and I had read them all before I turned ten in 1977. What's more, I still have my copies, some more dog-eared than others.

I don't remember being disappointed that I never got to own a proper Paddington. I got the best possible alternative. I've no idea how Mum found the bear that became known as Paddy, as it's too late to ask her now, but he arrived on Christmas Day 1976, sporting a hand-made red felt coat with buttons, black felt boots and hat. These days he wears a jumper Mum originally knitted for one of her nine grandchildren, the clothes he arrived in long since gone. After all, he had travelled thousands of miles to reach Darkest Surrey. And yes, Paddy turned out to be the perfect Christmas present!

Cathy says:
Awww this is such a lovely story! My little brother also had a 'fake' Paddington bear... they must have been quite the thing around 1976! Who was/is YOUR fave fictional character? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more! (And Happy Birthday, Michael Bond - and thank you for the stories!)

Friday, 13 January 2017

ANASTASIA: READING CC IN BOSNIA!

In the first of a new series on readers all around the world, we talk to Anastasia, who tells us just what the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS books mean to her!


Anastasia says:
I am thirteen years old and I live in a country in Eastern Europe called Bosnia and Herzegovina. I absolutely love Cathy Cassidy books - or Keti Kessidi books, as they are over here! I've been reading them since I was ten! They inspire me so much, and I love the way they are written and the themes of the stories. I have learned so much from them. At times I have cried because there is a sad bit, or even just because it's the end of the story.

Sometimes I just get right into the pages of the book and feel like I am actually there... in Tanglewood. looking out to the beach and the beautiful ocean; or beside the little pond with Cherry's fish; in the woods where the gypsies once lived; or in the big garden with the gypsy caravan. It is not just the series I like, either, but the stand-alone books also. It's amazing to see Indigo's new house and share her problems, or be a part of Daizy's performance with her band.

I have not read all the Cathy Cassidy books yet as I have not been able to find them all in my country. I'm trying, though!  I do have all of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series, and my favourite characters are Skye, Summer and Coco. These books mean so much to me... one day I would love to meet Cathy Cassidy and get my books signed, and I cannot wait to read more CC stories.

Cathy says:
Awww... this is such a lovely post! I love hearing from readers all around the world. Do YOU live outside the UK? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

TEEN LIFE - EIGHTIES STYLE...

Back in the 1980s, I worked as a writer/ reporter for various teen mags. I thought it might be fun to turn the clock back thirty years and look at what life was like for teens in 1987...

Ian & Polly
People call us 'psychobillies' after the psychobilly music we like - the style stems from 1950s rockabilly, but the sound is very 1980s! We met at an alternative club and we love a lot of the same style and music, but in the past some of my boyfriends have been embarrassed to introduce me to their friends! I don't care though... this is the way I want to dress. I used to get a bit of hassle at school, with teachers sticking pencils into my quiff - it's solid with hairspray - but I actually get away with less now I've left school. I'm on a secretarial course and I have to dress low key for college. Ian changes the way he looks for work too... you don't mess around with jobs, do you? I'd love to say I'll still be dressing this way in ten years time, but I honestly doubt it. I'd like to think I was still a bit different, though, I'd hate to be just one of the crowd!

Fae & Aydo
We follow our own style... we get influences from everywhere, and we go down to London a lot as things are always changing there style-wise. Aydo used to get into trouble at school for not combing his hair, and I used to shave the sides of my head and have a Mohican - my parents hated it. My new hairstyle, Aydo invented at the weekend... it took him sixteen hours to do all the tiny plaits! Aydo is a fashion designer - he designed these trousers - but I'm a receptionist, so I have to tone things down a bit for work! The music we like isn't especially tied up to how we dress - we like Bowie, Divine, Tina Turner, Madonna, lots of stuff.

Andrew & Helen
We've known each other for ages... we go to the same school and live in the same area. People call this style 'casual' - for me, that's about wanting to fit in with friends. I'd hate to look weird or be started at in the street - who wants to be laughed at? I buy my clothes from Top Shop and add style touches of my own - I always wear lace in my hair and wrap lengths of lace around my wrist like bracelets. Music wise, we like Patsy Kensit, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Bon Jovi, U2 and Simple Minds.

Jane & Jon
We met at art college and we both like the same sort of music - The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, that kind of thing. People expect art students to dress a bit differently so in a way things are easier for me now than when I was at school - I've been a Goth since I was about thirteen. My mum got used to me dying my hair different colours, but school never did! It's not an expensive look - I make a lot of my own clothes and find stuff in the Oxfam shop too. We're both vegans, so I won't wear make up that's been tested on animals - I buy white stage make up and false eyelashes from a theatrical shop! It's funny how people judge you for the way you dress - we're both quite shy, but people have all kinds of odd ideas and we've been hassled in the street a few times. Why judge people on looks... it's personality that counts!

Cathy says:
I love this blast from the past. Which look would YOU have chosen? How do you think things have changed since 1987? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

STEPPING OUT!

Readers share pics of their favourite shoes... and tell us why they're so special!

Luna says:
I got these shoes from ebay... they came from China and cost £32 which is more than I'd usually spend on shoes, but they light up, so... bargain! They have a little cable that you use to charge the battery on a laptop and there are switches inside the shoe so you can change the colours or make them flash! I love the different colours, as you can change them to go with your outfit, and I love the hi-top trainer style as I'm into 80s hip hop music and fashion. These are the kind of thing people dreamt we'd all be wearing in the future! I'll wear them to go out dancing with friends, but I think they'll be talked about by just about anyone who sees them. Also, my cat is mesmerised by them!

Eleanor says:
I saw the shoes in Topshop before Christmas and loved them, but they were too expensive so I didn't buy them. A couple of weeks ago I went to see what was in the Topshop sale and there were the awesome shoes - just one pair left, and in my size! They were reduced to only £7 so I knew I had to get them! I love shoes - they're my 'thing'. I tend to plan outfits around my shoes rather than the other way around and I have around twenty pairs - I've been building my collection ever since my feet stopped growing two years ago! They are the first thing I look for in a shop and the thing I am most likely to spend my pay on!

Neibh says:
I saw these embroidered boots in Primark for just fifteen pounds... I mean, I'd have been crazy not to have them, right? I love them - they are high and elegant but comfy too. They're just ankle boots, so they go with lots of things - including trousers - so they're very practical as well as pretty. I wore them to a New Year party and they got a lot of attention, so maybe they will be my lucky boots! I like that they are so unusual and have a folk-art feel to them, plus they're bang on trend which is always a bonus! I wear a lot of black, so they are a great way of brightening up an outfit - just hope they wear well, because I have a feeling I'll be stepping out in them loads in 2017!

Jenny says:
These are my party shoes. I got them from Clarks a year ago - they  weren't for a special occasion or anything, I just saw them and thought they were fantastic. And they were reduced to £25, which was a bargain, so I kind of had to have them. They always make me feel great when I'm wearing them... like a superhero! I've had some great party times in these shoes, and they're not high so they're pretty comfy, too. Although they do catch a bit at the back, so I don't wear them all the time... even now I'm still breaking them in! I wore them once to uni and a boy said he could see his reflection in them... #TalkingPoint

Cathy says:
I love these shoes... and the stories that go with them! Which pair would YOU wear? And what are YOUR fave shoes like? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!