Monday, 24 September 2018

YOUR STARS FOR SEPTEMBER

With the shifting of seasons, we all need a little guidance from the stars. Skye predicts once more, your future! 

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
Let yourself dream freely, it will inspire a creative new project. Have you ever tried keeping a dream journal? Often the best ideas come at night, just before sleep, so keep a notebook to hand so you don’t forget!

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
Be there for someone you love, they may need it more than ever this month. Rewards come in all different shapes and sizes, the cycle of karma works its own magic in its own time. With this in mind, never neglect your own needs and happiness.

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
You will reconnect with an old friend this month, they may come bearing big news! Interest in a new hobby will enable you to explore this friendship more comfortably than ever before.

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
A flash of inspiration will come from an unexpected place this month, something to ignite your creative fires and help you overcome an obstacle in your life. Channel it and sit back and watch the magic happen!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
Ever had a spinach and kale smoothie? No, me neither. Being healthy doesn’t always mean sacrificing tasty food. Exercise is a great way to feel healthier and happier! Walking instead of getting the bus is an easy way to feel better. Mentally and physically.

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
It’s officially autumn. Time to get your slouchy cardis and fair isle jumpers out! While there are a lot of changes happening, make sure you make time to curl up with a good book and relax. Switch-off time is so important for your mental well-being.

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
Be impulsive, go out of your comfort zone. It will pay off in unexpected ways and things you might never have dreamed of doing will become some of your biggest achievements. This month in particular will be full of opportunities!

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
You like being in control of your actions but try and cut loose and let your mind wander. Sometimes the magic happens when you let go a bit. Be bold and confident but don’t be upset if your efforts don’t pay off all at once.

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
This is a month of new experiences. A lot of changes are taking place and not just with the shift of seasons. Embrace these changes, the good and bad, the scary and familiar. This month in particular will shape a new path in your life.

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
Nature is your first love, these autumnal colours bring not only joy but a breath of fresh air. Like an imaginary reset button, this is a month to start afresh. Go for a walk, feel the crunchy leaves beneath your shoes. Breathe.

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
You are full of energy this month but it is erratic and comes in waves. Make sure you use it wisely. Take care not to hurt others around you. A friend in need may come to you, be kind and selfless.

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
A bit of confidence in your own abilities will pay off this month. You are usually very humble and shy, but try it out for size! It feels good to be sure of yourself and you can achieve anything with the right amount of confidence.

Cathy says:
WOWEE! Lots in store for the weeks ahead! Do Skye's predictions ring true for YOU this month? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Friday, 21 September 2018

SEPTEMBER BOOK PICK - THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS

Reader and blogger Coco&chats tells us about an amazing YA novel that you'll never forget...

Coco&chats says:
I love nothing more than getting lost in a book.... sitting absolutely anywhere and just getting so engrossed in a story. I have been really busy this year with school so this summer I planned to catch up on all the books on my to- read list. I thought it would take a while to find a really good book but I was wrong. I picked up this book from the library as it was part of this year's Carnegie Award and I knew from the first page that it was going to be amazing. It is THE HATE U GIVE  by Angie Thomas. I don't know what it is about this book that grips me - it's just written in such a unique way.

The story follows sixteen-year-old Starr Carter as she moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangster. Protesters take to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

What Starr does or does not say could upend her community and endanger her life. I think this book is amazing because it tackles real world issues. I think Angie is an amazing writer and I really felt a connection with down-to-earth Starr, being a teenager like her. In summary I would say this book is a gripping, interesting, must-read book. It kept me hooked and I loved every bit of the storyline. I can't wait to read more of Angie's books!

CATHY SAYS:
Thank you Cocoa&chats! Like you, I absolutely LOVED this book... it was moving, powerful and genuinely eye-opening. I think that Angie Thomas is a huge new talent. What's the best book YOU have read this year? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 7 September 2018

GABRIEL: MY SUMMER VOLUNTEERING IN GHANA!


Student Gabriel wanted to make her summer count - so she embarked on an adventure volunteering with other young people to build accommodation in a small village in Ghana!
This summer I decided to spend five weeks volunteering in Ghana with Lasallian Developing World Projects. The opportunity to become involved came when one of the charity's organisers came into school for interviews. I decided that such an experience would be so special - I could not waste the opportunity! I wanted to do something to help counter the poverty and inequality so prevalent in the world today. Of course, I could only make a little difference, but it made me realise that if everyone put in a small effort, big changes could be brought about.


The thought of venturing off to West Africa with eleven other students I didn’t yet know absolutely terrified me, but after a lot of thinking and talking to others, I decided to jump headfirst into this crazy adventure. To go on the expedition, I had to raise £1,600 (very good value, I reckon!). Raising the money was much less painful than I thought it would be. I wrote letters to many relatives and family friends who send generous donations. I also held two cake sales in school which was easy and enjoyable! My main fundraiser was a meal I held in a hired venue: about thirty people came and I made a good profit from that to achieve my target.
When I first arrived in Ghana, I felt very homesick, which was unsurprising given my introverted nature. But with the support of my group, I began to settle in and enjoy Africa. We were based in the village of Kaleo, near Wa, in the Savannah region, and our task was to help build accommodation for nuns, who were soon to be teaching in the school next door. Working in the heat every day was tough, but with good music and great company it was also fun! We made mortar, plastered door frames and formed water chains for the local builders.
I gained a huge sense of independence during my time in Ghana: walking into the town on my own to buy provisions; being cautious of health worries such as malaria; and cooking for ten people! It benefitted me personally in so many ways, whilst giving me the rewarding knowledge that I was helping a less privileged community. The local people we met were all so welcoming and friendly, making us feel at home all the time, and we made many friends from whom it was so difficult and sad to part!
Being in Ghana for five weeks certainly changed me and made me discover more about myself. I threw myself in far beyond my comfort zone, which showed me how strong and confident I could actually be. My eyes are much more open to the diversity which exists in the world. Being in Ghana also made me realise the importance of human connection: friendship is a huge part of the community in which we were staying.
I would highly recommend getting involved in a summer expedition such as this; it is rewarding and memorable, and has changed my outlook on life.

You can find out more about the organisers of this project here: http://www.delasalle.org.uk/ldwp/4586745771

Cathy says:
Wow... what an amazing experience! Those five weeks in Ghana must have been a challenge, but how  satisfying to know you've contributed something genuinely worthwhile! Do YOU ever dream of volunteering to help others? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 3 September 2018

WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT SUMMER?

We asked YOU what your fave thing about summer is? Here's what YOU said!

Julie says:
 Simply the sun!

Ro says:
Everything slows down... time to read, rest, plan adventures!

Zara says:
This summer it's all about sunshine... I'm loving the heatwave, it feels like we haven't had a proper hot summer for so long. I think I am designed to live in a hot climate! Long may it last!

Katie says:
The best thing about summer is the release of new Cathy Cassidy books!!! *hugs Sami’s Silver Lining to my chest*

Sharon says:
The glistening of the sun on my face followed by rain drops cooling my skin.

Lindy says:
Longer days...

Priya says:
Travelling to see old friends and faraway family... and days spent doing fun, cool, unusual stuff. Holiday time is the best!

Helen says:
Reading in the sun!

Bev says:
Time to inhale whole books without pesky work getting in the way 🤣

Sophie says: 
The Edinburgh Book Festival! 😀

Sade says:
Having an excuse to drink fruity cocktails with ice!

Olivia says:
The best thing about summer is having tons of free time to read and relax...

Jodie says:
School holidays... otherwise known as FREEDOM!

Caitlin says:
Relaxing win the sun and bbqs with the family!

CATHY SAYS:
My fave summer things are festivals, friends and sunshine... and this summer has been packed with all three! What is YOUR favourite thing about summer? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

ROMESSA: DATE NIGHT WITH YOURSELF

Reader Romessa reminds us how important it is to leave time for yourself and that being by yourself is ok!

Romessa says:
I will let you into a little secret... date days or date nights with yourself  are basically days where you show yourself love and you appreciate yourself even if you feel like you can’t or that you don’t deserve to.

Let me tell you - and please believe me - you deserve lots of love and care. The whole idea of date days or nights for yourself is to let yourself heal from whatever you’re going through or it may be to help you feel better from those rough days. It will enable you to look at yourself and see that you do deserve more love, much more love than you are currently giving yourself. 

It is also up to you how many days or nights you set aside, I usually have one every Friday where I watch movies and just do things I enjoy like reading! Also Sundays are my date days where I will read, have a long bath and just eat lots of tasty food. Once or twice a month I will visit a coffee shop by myself. They make me so happy and I just sit there for a while with a nice book and switch off from the world around me. I love this time alone as it makes me feel happy and I realise that I do deserve to be alive and I do deserve these things. 

Dates by myself started when I started losing people, losing friends, losing people close to me... I got to a point where I wanted someone to just chill with or speak to. That was when I realised you need to enjoy your own company first before expecting anyone else to. Don’t get me wrong I love being around people and love going out with people and enjoy time with others but sometimes I need the time to revaluate what is going on in my personal life and just look after myself.

You may be in a relationship or seeing somebody and sometimes things get difficult and you need a time out.  It's ok. Go pamper yourself, get a coffee, eat junk food, sleep extra, go for a run, go for a walk, spend time with family (this is not by yourself but still healthy), binge watch a series, get to know yourself. 

Personally, I think spending some time away from others and by yourself will make you feel less stressed and will show you that no matter what goes on you still have yourself.

Cathy says:
What a fab idea! Introvert or extrovert, we all need time to ourselves and a lot of us tend to forget that. I love going on solo coffee dates, with a good book or to catch up on my emails. How do YOU like to treat yourself? Is it something you could be doing more? Let us know in the COMMENTS SECTION below...

Thursday, 23 August 2018

JODIE: MY REVIEW OF SAMI'S SILVER LINING!

Reader Jodie shares a gorgeous book review for SAMI'S SILVER LINING... read on and see why this book is making such a stir!

This book moved me to tears. Right from the start I was captured by Sami and his life journey. So many moments had me holding my breath in anticipation, and not wanting to put the book down. The way the coat becomes a link between Sami and his past is so beautiful, and I love the idea of him collecting silver trinkets and rubbish, in order to recreate the 'silver lining' idea. I loved all the note pages at the end of each chapter, taking us all back to those horrible days when life was so cruel and harsh and tragic and teaching us about the terrible refugee crisis. It made such an impact, just thinking about what things go on around the world, even today, that lots of us still have no clue about.

I have grown up reading Cathy’s books. Throughout my childhood they have helped me escape the struggles of my own life and lose myself in the lives of her wonderful characters. I love all of the Chocolate Box Girl series, and my absolute favourite books are LUCKY STAR and GINGERSNAPS. I can find myself relating to parts of each and everyone of the people in all of her books, and it made me cope with situations a lot better. Growing up with Cathy’s books to help me through made such a difference. I loved the fact that no matter what kind of day I’d had at school, or at home, I could just pick up a book, such as SCARLETT, and forget about my troubles, concentrating on the problems and tribulations of the character instead, putting my mind at ease, at least for a while, and escaping reality.

Growing up in a troubled home, and with a mental illness, I found my comfort in reading various books, and Cathy’s books always seemed to settle me the most, and were so easy to read. I adored reading, especially when I was going through primary school, and was into the young adult section before I even got into the double digit age!

Now, being twenty one, and reading Cathy’s books as an older reader, I can see so many more messages in the books that I perhaps didn’t always see as a younger reader. I love that even now, young girls can enjoy all of her books as much as I did, and relate to them. Cathy is my favourite author, not only because she is a super kind and cool person, but because no matter what age or gender you are, you can always get so much enjoyment out of the books, and recognise characteristics of yourself in the characters. They portray teenage life in such a realistic way, whilst at the same time sometimes being dramatic, and making you feel that maybe your life isn’t as bad as it seems.

Thank you for playing such a huge part in my childhood Cathy. Your books are going to be part of my collection forever.

Cathy says:
Oh wow... thank you Jodie for that amazing review! Have YOU read SAMI'S SILVER LINING yet? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more! 

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

KATIE: STARTING HIGH SCHOOL

Reader Katie has some words of wisdom for anyone stressing out about starting secondary school...


Katie says:
Starting high school can be a scary thought, but trust me, it won't be as bad as you imagine! All summer long I was worrying about starting a new school and dreading the first day. I was constantly stressing and worrying about what it would be like, but at the same time I had an excited feeling, like butterflies in my tummy. I liked the idea of having a new uniform, pencil case and bag, and buying these new school supplies actually really helped me. Just going round the shop, filling my basket with pens, pencils and notebooks helped me to feel more prepared.

The days went by so fast, and before I knew it summer was over and it was the night before my first day at secondary school. I had a very sleepless night and woke early. I put on my new white shirt, my new pleated skirt and pulled on my new black blazer and did up my newly polished shoes. My dad drove me to school that first day and I remember walking into the playground and right into the building where I would be spending the next five years of my life. It was a hectic day, but as the hours ticked by my nerves began to ebb away.

I made new friends and by the end of the week I pretty much knew my way around the building. That first week was great and I've enjoyed the weeks that followed even more. Don't be nervous on your first day at a new school - you CAN do it. Take the advice of someone who has done it too!

Cathy says:
I love this - Katie is very honest about her feelings, and her gentle reassurance should help new Year Sevens everywhere! Were YOU nervous on your first day at secondary school? COMMENT BELOW to share your tips for new Year Sevens!

Saturday, 18 August 2018

AUDITIONING FOR THE VOICE

Reader Fay tells us all about her recent experience of auditioning for The Voice... wow! Read on to see what happened!

FAY SAYS:
A few months ago, I spontaneously applied for The Voice UK after thinking,  I’ll be old enough next year why not? I put my name forward, sent a video clip in and applied. I completely forgot about it until a month or so later, when I got an email confirming that I’d managed to get an audition for the show in Manchester. By this point I was in the middle of GCSE exams and wasn’t sure whether to go ahead. I ended up calling one of my friends and explaining to them, and they basically told me do it or I'd regret it! I asked my mum if she would take me to Manchester  and she said she’d love to - which was good because as I’m under eighteen I had to have an adult with me. The audition date was two days after I finished my exams meaning I didn’t have much time to prepare, but I decided to go anyway just for the experience.

On the day we got up really early to get to Manchester for 11am. By the time we got to the audition I was really nervous, as it was hosted in a big, fancy hotel. We had to show our forms and our ID and were given name stickers and ID numbers before being directed to a waiting room. Every so often groups of ten people were called out for the first part of the audition. After fifteen minutes my name was called so my mum and I went to a smaller waiting room with my group of ten. I was nervous again because everyone else was over eighteen and I'd only just turned sixteen but I was determined do it anyway.

My mum waited outside while I went in. Once inside, there were chairs sat in a circle and a small table at the front of the room. The two people sat at the table were a vocal coach and a producer, both of whom were really lovely. We went around the circle including the two people at the table and said our names and an interesting fact about ourselves. Mine was that I was once in a pantomime with Basil Brush! After that we stood up to sing our pieces one at a time.

Because of the order of the list, I ended up being last out of my group to sing. Everyone was really good and I think all of them should have got through to the next stage. When it was my go, I stood up in the centre of the circle and said the name of the song - ‘Space Oddity’ by David Bowie. After I finished everyone clapped and then we all left for about five minutes while the producer and vocal coach talked. When we came back in we were told that only one person from our group had got through to the next stage, so we were told the name of who had got through and told that we should all come back next year If we didn’t get through this time.

I didn’t get through to the next part of the audition but I didn’t mind because for me it was a really good experience and proved I could hold my own with adult singers. Everyone in my group was really lovely and they had all wished me good luck before we went in and complimented me on my singing afterwards. All in all, the audition was a really good experience and I’m so glad I got the chance to go to it as it was so fun and wasn’t anywhere near as scary as I’d thought it’d be.

Cathy says:
Wow... what an experience! I hope Fay gives it another shot in the future, as her enthusiasm, talent and determination are sure to help her succeed! Have YOU ever had to audition for something? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 16 August 2018

LUCIE: TEN THINGS TO DO THIS AUGUST!

If the summer holiday is rolling on and you're running out of things to do, check out reader Lucie's list of ten things to take life up a few gears!

1: Sleep in as late as you want to... and remember that in a few weeks, all this will just be a blissful memory!

2: Go swimming in the sea... it may require a trip on train or by bus to the nearest beach, but pack your swimsuit as well as your sun cream and catch some waves while the sun is shining!

3: Go to a music festival and dance in the sunshine to live music, even if it's just a small festival in your local town... or get together with some mates and put on your own live performance, 'LOST & FOUND' style!

4: Make your own ice lollies by freezing fruit juice with lolly sticks in... or if you have an ice cream maker, get creative and invent your own ice cream flavours!

5: Meet a friend in town and share an old fashioned 'Knickerbocker Glory' or 'Banana Split' ice cream sundae!

6: Play tennis in the park... it's great exercise and even better fun!

7:  Get together with friends and go on a bike ride to somewhere you've never been... take rucksacks with packed lunches, water, fruit and a map and make it an adventure!

8: Make lanterns from old jamjars and tea lights, and hang in the trees to brighten up the summer evenings... solar fairy lights work well too.

9: Take little brothers/ sisters/ cousins/ neighbours to the local paddling pool... and make a splash!

10: Make your own flavoured water by adding crushed mint and sugar to a pitcher and filling with cold water and lots of ice; or try adding lemon slices, orange slices or halved strawberries! Yum!

Cathy says:
Love these ideas from Lucie... August is a special month, so don't waste it... enjoy every minute! What are YOUR 'must do' things this month? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

MAWISH: I NEED A DOG IN MY LIFE!

Reader MAWISH really wants a pet dog but her parents don't agree... will Coco find a compromise for her?

MAWISH SAYS:

I really want a pet dog and keep mentioning it to my parents but they won’t listen! They keep making excuses why it wouldn’t be suitable. It makes me really sad because I’d look after it and walk it all the time. Is there a way I can show them how responsible I’d be?

COCO SAYS:
I like that you are trying to find a solution to this dilemma by finding ways to show your parents that you can be responsible... and a great way to do this would be to volunteer at a local animal shelter. The animals always need walking and cleaning out, and you'd soon see how much work is involved in having a dog and know for sure whether you'd be up for the task! This may convince your parents that a new addition to the family would work - in which case, I'd recommend a rescue dog, as they're often every bit as adorable and loving as a pedigree.

However... what if your parents still say no? They may just not want a dog, and perhaps no amount of campaigning on your behalf will change that. Not every family is suited to keeping a dog... perhaps someone is allergic, or you live in a small flat, or everyone is out at school or work all day and there's nobody to exercise the dog? If your family remain against the idea, the only way forward is to accept their decision and keep on volunteering at the animal shelter, or offer to walk the dogs of neighbours who may appreciate an extra hand. That way you get to bond with the dogs and deepen your knowledge of how to care for them, and one day when you have a household of your own you can welcome a pet in, safe in the knowledge that it will be wanted, loved and well cared for. Good luck... let me know how it goes!

CATHY SAYS:
Good advice from Coco... do YOU agree? COMMENT BELOW to add your own advice for Mawish!

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

MY NAME, MY STORY...

We asked CC readers with very cool names to share the stories of how they came to have those names... their stories are just awesome!

ZIVA SAYS:
When my mum was pregnant she thought I was going to be a boy. She had picked out a name and chosen all the stuff for my room but when she discovered I was a girl she said she wanted to pick a name that would be different. She also wanted my name to be strong and independent just like she hoped I would be. (She says I am!) Her favourite TV show NCIS had a character in called Ziva who was very independent and never took any messing - but she was also very kind. So that is how I became Ziva. My name is from the Hebrew and it means brilliance/ brightness. If you spell it with an e instead of an I it means 'warrior princess' and that is appropriate too... when I was a baby I was very poorly and I nearly died. The staff at the RVI said even though I had an i and not an e in my name,  I was still a warrior princess to them!


AMAZING SAYS:
My name is Amazing. I was called this because when my mum went to the hospital to give birth to me I wasn't forthcoming... the doctors decided to allow some time for things to progress, but agreed to decide on a plan in case the birth was not going to go well. So the doctors came back with a plan of what to do - and then at the last minute I was born naturally after all, and the doctors said, 'That was amazing!' And so I was called Amazing! I love my name because it's unique and I love the sound of it. The good comments people make about my name are nice, like 'That's a lovely name...' This just makes me feel special! Buuuuuut the thing I hate is when people make puns and jokes using my name on PURPOSE. Sometimes people do this by accident which is OK and I don't mind that, but you can always tell when they are doing it on purpose. Anyway... I love my name and I will never ever wish for any other! 


BROCHA SAYS:
My name is Brocha. If your having trouble reading my name, don’t worry as most people generally do! Brocha means 'blessing' in Hebrew, and even though my parents aren’t at all religious, I guess they just seemed to like the name, and it clicked. Throughout my life I’ve been called everything, and now at this point I tend to expect to laugh when people say my name. Because by now I just know they won’t say it right! When I was younger I hated my name. I hated being different and not having a normal name like most girls I knew. But now I'm older, I guess having such a weird name helps get my voice heard. People can’t ignore me, And I definitely make most people look twice when my name is on a list of some sort. But then again, my name suits my personality, as I am loud and unusual and there certainly are very few like me! I guess it took me a while to get used to having to repeat my name to most people before they properly know me, but now I’ve just grown into it. Everyone knows me as 'Brocha' and they accept me for 'Brocha.' My name is just a label... in reality it’s your personality that matters most!

CATHY SAYS:
Such lovely stories... and great insights into three wonderful personalities! I love unusual names... do YOU have a cool or unusual name? Would you like to tell us more about it for the DREAMCATCHER blog? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

AUGUST BOOK PICK: FLIGHT

We loved catching up with writer Vanessa Harbour about her new book FLIGHT and how she approached writing it... what a treat!!

VANESSA SAYS:
I am an academic which means I work at a university and I lecture on creative writing. Best job in the world! Almost everything I had written until FLIGHT had been linked in some way to my academic work. I was talking to my editor, Imogen Cooper, and she told me to go away and write whatever I wanted as the novel I was working with her just wasn’t working.

Sounds great doesn’t it, but don’t you find when someone says to you that you can write whatever you want, you suddenly start panicking. Well so did I at first, just a little bit. I thought what shall I write? What if I can’t come up with another story? Scary isn’t it? But then I thought, this can be great fun. I can enjoy myself. I am lucky that I have lots of friends who are authors like Cathy and I knew that sometimes they felt like this too, so I reminded myself just how much I love writing and got on with it.

The story of FLIGHT is a combination of things I love... horses and history. More specifically a story based towards the end of Second World War. It is an adventure story as my characters must lead Lipizzaner horses across the mountains in Austria to safety. This is because a Nazi officer has shot one of the horses while searching for Jakob who is hiding. He is hiding because he is Jewish. His guardian has helped him hide for a long time and wants to continue to keep him safe. As they start to ride across the mountains they are joined by Kizzy, who is a Roma girl, and has also been hiding from the Nazis. They must overcome several obstacles on their way. Can Jakob and Kizzy save the dancing horses?

I had great fun writing this story because it was about things I am passionate about. I’ll tell you something though. I did have to edit about five chapters out of the story as they might have been fascinating if you loved horses like me, but they’d be of no interest to anyone else! Sometimes this is what you must watch for when writing. You need to remember who your audience is likely to be and what they might want to know about. It is the same with writing historical fiction as you do loads of research and it is easy to bog the story down with all the details you have found. It is important that your research appears with a light touch in the narrative. Sometimes it is so hard because you want to share an intriguing detail, or so you think, with the reader but it is not relevant to the story, so you can’t include it.

When I was young I used to love reading and I would escape into books often reading a book in a day. I confess it is my dream that one day somebody feels the same way about my books, they curl up and get so engrossed in the story that they also read them in a day. Happy reading everyone!

www.vanessaharbour.co.uk
http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/node/401
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flight-Vanessa-Harbour/dp/1910080764
https://www.waterstones.com/book/flight/vanessa-harbour/9781910080764

CATHY SAYS:
I can confirm FLIGHT is a fantastic read... a real adventure classic, and a must-read for anyone who loves horses or historical fiction. And it's out NOW! Have YOU read a book recently that really hit home? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 30 July 2018

STARTING A BLOG... COCOA & CHATS!

Reader and blogger COCOA & CHATS tells us all about her fab blog, what inspired her and how she came to write it!

C&C SAYS:
I've wanted to start my own blog for the longest time now. I've been inspired by influential vloggers such as Zoella, Tanya Burr, The Anna Edit etc for about three years now. Then recently I found out that all these amazing people started their journey from their own blogs! It's crazy to think how far the media has come from people writing about their favourite lipsticks to vlogging their everyday lives. As I am embarking on my GCSE journey I wanted to document all the things that I get up to during this time and that's when it hit me - why not start a blog?

So on a cloudy day during half term I wrote my first ever blog post! I've been blogging for about a month now and it's been a crazy journey already! I have made new digital friends and learnt so many new skills and tricks! I wanted to share my own tips that really helped me out when starting my very first blog!

1) Choose your blogging software - choosing the software you actually write your blog posts on is super important. I chose blogger because it is free and after doing a bit of research I found out it was also the best for newbies because it is the easiest to use but there are others out there too. It is just about finding what works for you!

2) Choose a name that represents you - I personally think that choosing your blog name is the hardest part of it all because this is what people will remember your blog as and it also forms the main name in your blog URL. To choose mine I just thought about what my blog represented. I love chocolate, hence the name cocoa... and I wanted my blog to be a place where people can come to chat with me and other people in order to make new friends - hence the name chats. Bam - put it together and you are left with Cocoa&chats!

3) Choose the vibe - It is important to think about what you will write about on your blog as this can really help in choosing colours, fonts and backgrounds. For example if you are food crazy there is a background choice on blogger of different foods! You need to make sure your blog is clear and easy to read. It needs to engage your reader so make it colourful and interesting!

4) Steady your blog posts. Be consistent - it is easy to get carried away when you first start your blog. I remember wanting to write five posts on the first day! But having a schedule can really be good as it means you don't get too addicted to your blog but it also means that your readers know when they can expect a new post - for example you might state that you publish a post every Wednesday and Saturday. I have found that spacing out your blog posts really helps your creative mind as it means you are giving yourself a bit of space to think of new ideas.

5) Publicise your blog as much as possible - I think everyone thinks their blog will hit it off like Zoella within an hour of your first post, but in reality this won't happen! I remember sitting there hitting the refresh button over and over hoping someone would miraculously find my blog but of course they didn't! I find going on to the comments section of blogs that you love and leaving a link to your blog can really help to start it off. I love connecting with other bloggers who have a small audience and that way we can support each other. Being patient is key!

6) Make accounts on other social media platforms - again this is a great way of helping more people to find your blog. I have a Pinterest and Bloglovin account which is linked on my blog that way my readers can easily find me on other platforms. It is important that you link these platforms on your blog. You could also make an Instagram, Twitter or Youtube account!

7) Be unique - people will read your blog because they find it interesting. There is no point in copying someone else's style or posts because people won't engage with that. Be yourself and write about what you want because no matter what your interests are there will be someone out there in the world who loves that too!

8) REMEMBER - blogging is not about gaining a massive audience. I blog because I love to connect with people. If you are doing it for the follows you will soon find yourself falling out of love with your blog. I love it when even one person comments because it means that I can reply back to them and that starts a friendship!

Just be happy and do what makes you feel comfortable because if you are positive then this will show through your writing! I hope these have been helpful tips for anyone out there who wants to join the world of blogging. And if you are thinking of doing so - you should! It's amazing!
thank you for reading! Oh and one last thing- please check out my blog at http://cocoachats.blogspot.com/
You can find a link to my Pinterest and Bloglovin account on there too!

Be sure to click the blue FOLLOW button on the right of my blog to get notified every time I publish a post!

CATHY SAYS:
I love these tips for budding bloggers! Cocoa&chats may be new, but it's also awesome... do check it out and give it a follow! Have YOU ever thought of starting your own blog? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more! 

Saturday, 28 July 2018

MARTI: RAISING FUNDS... AND AWARENESS!

Reader Marti tells us about a fab fundraiser she's a part of, raising awareness for mental health issues...

Marti says:
Hello! I’m part of a team of young people taking part in the NATIONAL CITZEN SERVICE programme, lead by FLYING FUTURES. The programme has helped us grow in unimaginable ways and taught us skills we would never learn in school. Through YOUNG ENTERPRISE workshops and inspirational talks by social entrepreneurs, we believe we have learned what it takes to positively impact our local community. Having asked members of the public about important issues in the community, we concluded that mental health issues deserved our attention. Throughout the next week, our team will be planning and taking part in a fundraiser for HARROGATE MIND. We wanted to educate ourselves on the issues those with mental illness face. 

This has been challenging, but our team are so self-motivated, and are lead by an awesome team leader who is always going the extra mile for us. We’ve had lots of obstacles to overcome as a group, such as conflicting opinions and clashing characters, but we always overcome them knowing that our differences make our team even stronger! We have been overwhelmed by the generosity that has come our way - people are passionate about mental health and truly believe in the young generation of today, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it! We’ve had raffle donations from big brand names and have even been encouraged by the local police force! Our FACEBOOK PAGE has been steadily growing each day, reaching fifty likes after twenty-four hours, and eighty the next day! After all, Mental health is an issue that affects all of us, either directly or indirectly.


On Thursday morning, we were invited to a breakfast with HARROGATE MIND. The visit wasn’t easy - I spoke to one man who shared his story with the most beautiful vulnerability. He told us that he loves life and wouldn’t change his past for the world. I spoke to another man who told me that he liked magic, On the Buses and Barbara Windsor. I then got up to approach a woman sat alone looking lonely. I didn’t know whether she wanted company or whether she wanted to be alone but figured that the worst that could happen was rejection. As I told a worker at the centre later: I didn’t realise how much that rejection would hurt.  As soon as I reached her side and said ‘hello’, she picked up her plate and stormed past, muttering about me. I was hurt. I could feel her pain inside me. To feel so threatened and upset when others approach you is a circumstance I could only imagine. I went outside and prayed for that woman. I think being so highly sensitive was a struggle in a facility where others are struggling, but it made me feel so grateful for my own health. The man I originally spoke to came and sat next to me later and spoke the most truth I have ever heard. He told me that it was bound to be a shock coming to a place like this with no prior experience and that we were doing a good thing.


Our team is planning a number of fundraiser activities next week, including a live music event, talks by users of mental health facilities, a ‘Positive Mental Attitude’ wall, as well as a raffle and voluntary work with HARROGATE MIND. We’re hoping to raise funds to help refurbish a quiet space where members can take time out to talk and invest in facilities for their choir and art group. The people who use MIND drop in all seemed so grateful to have the facility and not one negative word was said about it. The project is run entirely on goodwill and donations, with no budget for materials. We are so honoured to have a line up of five bands who have agreed to play free of charge in aid of MIND and to have been encouraged by the local community. It would mean the world to the team and me for anyone reading to spread the message and share awareness of our FACEBOOK PAGE, where details of the event will be held. We are also in need of technical equipment so that our bands can perform, and of course publicity! Any help would mean the universe to us, and help us on our mission to lift the stigma from mental health!

Cathy says:
Wow, what a great initiative - I really admire the NCS programme and applaud what Marti and her friends are trying to do! I've already given their FACEBOOK PAGE a like... why don't you? Have you ever taken part in community service or a charity fundraiser? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

READERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

I get some very cool letters and emails from readers all around the world... here are short extracts from just a few!

Hiya... Cathy... I love your books so much. I got to know you by your book GINGERSNAPS... I loved it. I am from Southern India where storybooks aren't that common, but I love reading. You have lot of fans from my school,  including me! Keep writing!
AQUA, S. INDIA

Couer Vanille (SWEET HONEY) is one of your books that I like very much... I have read others and I am always looking for more! I live in Dakar, Senegal, and I speak French, but not all of your books are available here yet! I love reading very much!
FATIMA, SENEGAL (translated from French)

Hello Cathy! I live in Barcelona. Yesterday afternoon I finished your book 'Heart of Vanilla' (SWEET HONEY) and liked a lot the whole story. I have to confess I cried a little when I read the book and I hope soon to read 'Heart of Cookie' (FORTUNE COOKIE)!!
CLAU, SPAIN

OMG I just finished 'Les 5 Lettres Du Mot Coeur' (BROKEN HEART CLUB) and it was so emotional! I like more and more what you do! I am sorry for my English, I am helping and translation application. I love your books!
MANON, FRANCE

Hey, my name is Lerato and I just turned nineteen, I live in South Africa. I love your books, especially DRIFTWOOD!
LERATO, S. AFRICA

CATHY SAYS:
I absolutely LOVE hearing from my readers, wherever they may be around the world! Have YOU ever written to a favourite author? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 21 July 2018

WHY I LOVE TO WRITE!

Readers tell us what makes them tick when it comes to writing. Where does the inspiration come from? Let's find out...

Soumia says:
Writing is everything to me. it is my escapism and my therapy, I write to heal my wounds, to share my thoughts and feelings with the paper and to be a better person, I also write for others to make them feel better and to let them know that they aren't  alone. At a very young age I knew that writing is my passion but I haven't thought of making of it a career until few years ago and I still haven't made a step because I am waiting for the right time

BeeBee says:
I feel most complete when I'm writing, I can pour a bit of my soul into everything I write and there is nothing that compares to comfort it gives.

Blue says:
I write in a journal every night but that's mainly just a way of tracking whether I've had my medication and my mood in general so, overall, nothing too exciting. Although I've been experiencing a bit of a creative block recently, I write short stories on occasion, as you all know. Writing can take me out of my head (it's not exactly a 5 star resort in here) and it makes me feel good about myself when I get compliments. I shouldn't be ashamed to admit that I like to receive praise and validation - I'm only human! Since I was five, writing has been my main talent and one of the only things I ever received compliments on so it made sense to practice now that I'm out of school and writing fiction is no longer required of me. Don't want to get too rusty. The more people say they like my writing, the harder I try to live up to the expectations. Although it can be stressful at times, it feels like a feasible goal. It feels like writing a little piece of fiction is something I can achieve and one of the things I like about writing is that I get to choose. I get to write about the people and animals and otherworldly creatures that I want to write about. Sure, I'll always be able to pick out flaws in my writing but I'm sure even Picasso saw flaws in his artwork. Not that I'm comparable to Picasso or anything! Unlike the other writers here, I don't want to write a book. I don't have the attention span, the imagination, ambition or enough of a grasp of the world of publication to go through with that. Rambling short stories are the best I have to offer. But as long as people think my stories are worth reading, I'll consider them worth writing.

Katie says:
Writing is different to reading in that suddenly my creativity is in the spotlight. I use it as an outlet, and write short stories and poems, mostly. But one day I hope to write a book. Writing is my thing, a space for me to be creative. It’s very similar, in my opinion, to reading and acting, they all use words, and I think words should be studied carefully. You never know what they might do!

Olivia says:
Although I haven't written much I love writing stories. Once I start it's as if I can't stop until I reach the ending. I hope to write my own book in the future and have it published.


Amanda says:
I write poems and I've taken to writing a diary. It helps me to get through a difficult period. My feelings flow from my head into the pen and onto the paper. Then I feel better. I write about positive things as well. I love writing. Writing is different to reading in that suddenly my creativity is in the spotlight. I use it as an outlet, and write short stories and poems, mostly. But one day I hope to write a book. Writing is my thing, a space for me to be creative. It’s very similar, in my opinion, to reading and acting, they all use words, and I think words should be studied carefully. You never know what they might do!

Cathy says:
It's always fascinating to find out how and more importantly why people start writing. It is such a release for the emotions, turning them into something beautiful. What makes YOU pick up your pen? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Friday, 20 July 2018

IT'S A TWIN THING

Reader Isobel shares what it is like to be a twin in this fab twin questionnaire!

1. What is it like being an identical twin?
Being an identical twin is mostly amazing - you always have someone by your side and it gives you a best friend for life. You never need to worry about being the only one to go somewhere as you’ll know you’ve always got your twin with you.

2. Are there any downsides to being a twin?
Overall, having a twin is cool but there are a few things that can get on your nerves. For example, when people get you mixed up! This happens a LOT. I know they sometimes can’t help it but especially if they’ve known us for ages, it can become really irritating! Another reason is when people can only invite a certain amount of people to do something and because they don’t want to pick one twin and not the other (which is actually quite a nice thought) they unfortunately can’t pick you as the other twin might get offended.

3. Are you similar in personality?
To be honest, we are actually quite similar. Not only because we look alike but we also share the same interests! The only difference is how I’m much quieter than Lucy as she’s always so loud and crazy compared to me.

4. Have you ever dressed alike or played pranks pretending to be the other twin?
Sadly, we haven’t played any pranks... yet! It would be a great idea for the future - Lucy could pretend to be me during an exam (although we are both about as brainy as each other) so I could pass! When we were small though, we did sometimes wear cute matching outfits - we were so adorable!

5. Some twins have an almost telepathic understanding of each other- is this the case for you?
Actually - no, unfortunately we don’t, but we can sometimes think the same things- it’s quite creepy! Also, recently we have been starting  to have the same viewpoint on everything and once we had the exact same marks on a test with the exact same questions wrong - how weird is that!

6. Have you ever shared the same friends?
Lucy and I haven’t ever had different friends. Well, except for that one time where Lucy met this person in a soft play (which I didn’t go to) and haven’t seen each other since - I don’t think that counts though!

As you can see, me and Lucy are very alike - can you guess who is who?

CATHY SAYS: 
So fascinating, thanks Isobel for sharing!! Have YOU got any cool twin stories? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

SAMI'S SILVER LINING... MORE REVIEWS!

Readers share their personal reviews of new CC book SAMI'S SILVER LINING... have you got YOUR copy yet?

MARTA SAYS:
I think that Cathy Cassidy's new book SAMI'S SILVER LINING is awesome because at first the book is really sad but when you read it you have to remember that it will all end happily! Her book broke my heart and sewed it back together. The story of Samir is one that I will never forget. This Syrian boy who walked to England, the boy who suffered loss and the boy who still managed to smile. I would recommend it to anyone who has read LOVE FROM LEXIE, the first book in the Lost & Found series. In my opinion, it is Cathy's best book yet!

NICOLE SAYS: I loved SAMI'S SILVER LINING! It is now my favourite book. I found it sad, really sad, but at the end I cried happy tears! My favourite character was Sami, because I really liked his personality and his confidence... I liked the way he dealt with things and his strength. For marks out of ten I would give this book ten, because I liked the story. I also liked the way after each chapter there was a memory of what happened in Sami's past, in the camp or when the boat sank. I loved how the book ended. I can’t wait until Cathy's next book!


SOPHIA SAYS:
Always look for the silver lining... this is the motto Sami is constantly repeating to himself as he makes his dangerous journey from war bitten Syria to England. Life in England is getting better though, and together with the Lost and Found crew Sami finds happiness in the best of places. With an incredible ending, SAMI'S SILVER LINING is a story of love, hardship and hope, woven together with music. This book made me cry! (Tears of joy!)

SOPHIE SAYS:
SAMI'S SILVER LINING is the eagarly anticipated second book in The Lost & Found series, following LOVE FROM LEXIE. I got the book the day before it came out and was really excited to read it as we don't hear much about quiet refugee boy Sami in that first book. Sami tells the story of his family life back home in Syria and the traumatic,journey he and his family face fleeing from the conflict in Syria. I very quickly felt sad for Sami and rooted for him on his journey. It was eye-opening for me and it also made me feel really sad that this is what children have to go through to escape conflict in their home country. The news doesn't tell us specific, personal stories like these. It often tells me things I don't fully understand so the book brought the war in Syria to life for me. I enjoyed the symbolism in the book too (you'll have to read it to find out what Sami's 'silver lining' really means!) It was also interesting to see the band from Sami's point of view and catch up with the other characters. I loved watching Sami find his voice and his confidence within the band, as well as romance! There is a really shocking ending to the book, which I never saw coming, it was brilliant and made me love the book even more! The book made me want to find out more about refugees, particularly children, and find out ways which I could help them. If you haven't read LOVE FROM LEXIE or SAMI'S SILVER LINING, you have to read BOTH now!

Cathy says:
The reviews for SAMI'S SILVER LINING are amazing so far... if you haven't already, get your hands on a copy soon! And if you'd like to add your own verdict, please email via the EMAIL CATHY link on cathycassidy.com or COMMENT BELOW!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

NICOLA MORGAN: THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO LIFE ONLINE

We caught up with fab author Nicola Morgan, who's an expert on how the teenage brain works, and how life online can impact on this! Fascinating stuff... read on to find out more! 

NICOLA SAYS:
A big wave of positivity to you, lovely Cathy’s readers! And thank you, Cathy, for asking me to come here and say something about The Teenage Guide to Life Online. The book should really be called Everyone’s Guide to Life Online. Your parents need to know this stuff as much as you do – maybe more! Adults often behave pretty badly with their phones and tablets, even while telling you to use yours less. Have you noticed??!

I’ve studied all the science behind our use (and over-use) of screens and I know that the risks and problems (as well as the positives) apply to all ages. We all need to understand this – so, tell your parents, especially next time they answer an email or text when you’re trying to talk to them or next time they’re suffering stress from being online too much…

The Teenage Guide to Life Online has stacks of fascinating science about all the positives and negatives but let me give you my four top tips here. (I have loads of free downloadable stuff on my website and anyone who orders a book from my site will get two signed cards, one of them with these tips on. You’ll find the free stuff and details here.)

Don’t compare yourself to the “perfect” lives you see online: it’s not the whole truth. People put their best stuff online and hide the boring, difficult or embarrassing bits.
If being online is making you feel bad, switch off, walk away and do something else. You’ll notice that you feel better – and the world didn’t stop just because you weren’t online for a bit.
Put your phone away if you want to do your best work. When we need to concentrate on something, we do better if our phone is out of sight and switched off. (Ideally somewhere we can’t easily get it – so, not in our bag or drawer but in a different room, or locked away.)

Make sure you spend enough time on things that we know are essential to well-being: sleep, physical exercise, face-to-face communication, hobbies and day-dreaming. If you’ve done all this, there’s no problem being online. (TTGLifeOnline has fascinating stuff about the power of day-dreaming and it’s something most of us aren’t doing enough of now, as we just get our phones out when we have five minutes of “empty time”. That empty time nourishes your mind, heart and creativity.)

Life online is wonderful and brings enormous benefits but we can have too much of it and it can start to dominate our lives. The Teenage Guide to Life Online gives the how and why – and how to have the benefits without the negatives.

If you’d like a chance to win a signed copy, add a 'pick me' comment below and one random person will be picked as the winner! The comp will run for just 14 days, so don't delay!

Btw, I have another new book: Positively Teenage. Both books are written for you, from me. I hope they help you have the best life possible. Take care, keep control and build the best life you can for yourselves, online and off-line. Because you’re worth it!

CATHY SAYS:
Wow... a book we could ALL use, and an amazing COMP as well! Thank you so much Nicola! COMMENT BELOW with 'PICK ME' to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

YOUR STARS FOR JULY!

SKYE TANBERRY reads the stars for our summery month of July!! Read on to see how your predictions turn out!

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
Feeling a little worn out? Taking too much on can sometimes leave you feeling drained… why not breathe into a new hobby such as yoga or meditation. This will do wonders to your anxiety and help you focus your mind on the present!

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
The moon is especially bright for you this month. A Saturday night is a good night for moon and stargazing. Maybe camp in the garden with your BFF’s? Connecting with nature is good for the soul… you may not realise how much we need it in our lives!

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
Your social scene seems a bit disjointed and scrambled right now. Focus on having low-key fun with those who mean the most...  and avoid drama and gossip, it will only bring unwanted negative energy into your life.

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
Sometimes you feel like you’re being overlooked… your ideas somehow get lost over louder, less clever ones. Well, this month it looks like your time has come. Make sure you articulate clearly what you have to say, as people will tune in with extra care! Go change people’s minds!

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
A time to perhaps focus on good deeds. Even just one selfless act may bring in return a huge deal of good karma. Energy is rewarded in mysterious ways, but you may just find yourself with a big smile on your face as everything around you aligns.

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
Make time for daydreaming this month, you may find the inspiration you have been searching for all this time. A time for finishing on going projects with a final burst of creative energy. Stay positive and go with your gut feeling.

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
You find yourself with a lot of free time this month, this may be your cue to take up a new hobby. Something you’ve been meaning to do for months… JUST DO IT! What is stopping you? New experiences are an invaluable part of human existence.

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
You are glowing and your love life is too! Lots of attention this month from romantic interests, wanted or unwanted!! Don’t let yourself become distracted from those closest to you though, plan that adventure with friends, go to the cinema with your mum, have some ‘me’ time.

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
This is your opportunity to shine brighter than the rest. Crank up your engines and throw yourself into your projects! Impress, inspire, be fabulous. Confidence will be easy to come by this month.

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
This is a month to have fun, so let loose and be free to express yourself in the best way you see fit. Realise your own power and project it into the world... leave seriousness for another day and let yourself laugh!

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
You are peaceful, harmonious and at one with nature this month. Very little will let you stray from being outside. You are most yourself in the summer, a gentle breeze in your hair and a river to dip your toes into!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
You are a deep thinker, by nature. Always with your head in a book. This month is no different… you are wired to the moon! It’s okay to be alone with your thoughts, spending time by yourself is healthy and can lead to some amazing creative endeavours!

CATHY SAYS:
Isn't it SO spooky how accurate these are? Do Skye's predictions ring true for YOU this month? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

YOUR STARS FOR SEPTEMBER

With the shifting of seasons, we all need a little guidance from the stars. Skye predicts once more, your future!  LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 2...