Disneybound: Part Of Your World

I’ve been experimenting recently with Disneybounding, taking inspiration from Disney characters and injecting it into your fashion choices. Recently Cherry Diva challenged me to use some items available from their store and see how I could use them to create some Disney inspired looks.

One of the items that they sent was this beautiful starfish slide. As soon as I saw it I knew exactly who I had to be- Ariel. This outfit is my Little Mermaid inspired work look. I wanted to create an outfit which used the recognisable colours of purple and green but did so in a more understated way, just using the starfish to give a very subtle under-the-sea vibe.

I experimented with using the slide in different ways: with my hair up, down and even stabbing it into a bun like a chopstick (two slides would work really well in this way).

I’ve got to admit that green and purple is a pretty out-there colour combination so I tried to downplay this by sticking to block colours in basic styles. My wardrobe is built of various block colours of tops and skirts. This beautiful dark purple top is from M&S, the green skirt was originally from TopShop (but I got it on eBay for a fraction of the cost) and the pashmina was bought on my honeymoon in Venice. The pashmina was an investment piece but the other items were fairly cheap, showing that disneybounding doesn’t have to mean buying new items all of the time. 

All of these individual items are infinitely wearable with other items (whether Disneybounding or not) but work so beautifully with the slide to give a subtle hint to Ariel.

Many thanks to Cherry Diva for the hair slide. 


Children’s Literature and Fear

I started a book group with some Year 5 (9 and 10 year olds) today where we read the opening to Abi Elphinstone’s The Dreamsnatcher. I think the book is absolutely amazing but was a little concerned that the opening may be a tiny bit too frightening to use in school. I decided to ask my husband’s opinion and read the prologue out loud to him. His opinion was that it was scary for an adult, let alone a child. I asked if he thought that I shouldn’t use the book for this reason and he stated that even though it was frightening the children would love it for that reason.
He was completely and utterly correct. The children were drawn into the world of the text straightaway and conversation went straight to momentous issues such as the nature of good and evil, trust, and purpose of ritual. I barely needed to actually lead this discussion, it led itself, and the children naturally were referring back to the textual evidence to explain their reasoning. These are difficult topics for children to be tackling but they weren’t phased at all. If anything the fear that they experienced drove them to ask more questions, think about what puzzled them and relate the ideas to other books, films and real-life experiences. 
Books are a safe way for children to explore concepts such as fear.  They can experience what the characters are going through but from the comfort of their own house/school etc. It also gives them the strength and power to get through scary and difficult situations in their own life- and at times there is nothing more frightening or hard than being a kid. 


Thank you to Blloon for 2000 credits to allow me to trial the app in return for an honest review. 

If you are a regular user of Facebook or Twitter it is likely that you will have come across adverts for a service claiming to be “Netflix for books.” Blloon is an iOS e-reading app which launched in the UK in November 2014. Blloon has a range of texts that readers have access to through their monthly subscription fee- either £3.99 for 500 pages or £6.99 for 1000 pages. Actually, when I say a range that sort of makes it sound less impressive than it actually is; they currently have 700,000+ books available on the app, including books from high- end publishers such as Bloomsbury, Faber and Faber, Canongate and Guardian Books.

Like with Kindle e-books, there is an opportunity to preview texts for free. At the end of the trial extract if you want to read on you need to unlock the rest of the book by paying with pages you have already accrued. Unused pages rollover from month to month meaning that you can add pages together from different months to buy a longer book. There is also the opportunity to pay to top up your pages on a sliding scale beginning with 100 pages for £1.49 and ending with 1000 pages for £6.99. At the moment the Blloon website is offering  a month’s free subscription on sign-up.

Personally, at the moment I don’t really feel in the financial situation to join another subscription scheme. Also, I’m pretty lucky in my area that my local library service is pretty extensive and generally pretty quick off the mark to get new books. They also have a facility to lend e-books, meaning that for me a subscription to Blloon may not be totally necessary. However, I do feel top-up buying may be a great way for me to read some new releases which haven’t yet turned up at the library without paying full price. I mean, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant is currently available on Kindle for £7.99 but only has 352 pages. On Blloon I could pay £3.99, buy the whole book and still have pages left over! The down side of this is that I don’t have the option of sending the book to my Kindle Paperwhite but still £3.99 for a new release that I am desperate to read is pretty good.

There is a good balance of newly released texts and classics, and for the few weeks that I have had the app downloaded there has been a turnover of featured books in the readlist and genre sections. However, the coverage isn’t as extensive as Kindle so there probably won’t be every book that you are hoping to read on there. If you are just browsing though there are plenty of titles to catch your eye. 

The actual e-reader facility itself is pretty good and clear but I have noticed a few glitches at points during books. The narrative occasionally shifts (usually in mid-sentence) when I turn a page and leads me to a section far ahead of where I actually am, leading me to need to scroll back until I find the actual page I am on. This happened in a few books (The Mall- S.L. Grey and The Art of Being Normal- Lisa Williamson) and was quite aggravating at the time. If this glitch can be fixed, reading on Blloon will be a much easier and more enjoyable experience.

The readlists are well curated (much better than the similar lists on Netflix that seem to often have tenuous links and connections) and drew my attention to books that I hadn’t heard of before. I didn’t find the children’s section to be as good as I would have hoped. It may be OK for a parent who is already using the app to use some pages for their child but I wouldn’t necessarily use the subscription for children’s books primarily. I also found some confusion over what constitutes Young Adult fiction; I wouldn’t personally put Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales in this section. 
I think it’s up to your personal circumstances whether you feel ready to commit to a subscription service at this time but I would suggest that Blloon is worth a look during the free offer period.


My New Favourite Gadget

Tomorrow sees my first post for Middle Grade Strikes Back (a collaborative blog by members of the UKMG community) go live. I’m discussing the power of audiobooks for readers of Middle Grade fiction.  I read audiobooks at various times of the day (walking to work, doing chores around the house) but my favourite time to enjoy a story is at bed.

I sometimes find it hard to get to sleep and at those times audiobooks are a godsend. They settle my mind and help relieve the anxiety that I often feel when insomnia rears its head. However, the sound of my books were annoying my husband and attempts to wear earphones were not successful- I didn’t like the feeling of the bud inside my ear against the pillow and I was scared of accidentally strangling myself on the wire if I fell asleep and turned over.

However, now I don’t need to worry about waking him up or hurting myself. This little weird UFO-like do-hickey has saved the day! It’s basically a tiny speaker that sits under my pillow and plugs into my phone. There are more high-tech pillow speakers around; you can even buy pillows with the speaker embedded. However, this mini speaker was less than £3 (through eBay) and you can’t argue with that!! For the price the sound quality is great and due to its shape I can’t even feel it through my top pillow!


Top Ten Books For Readers Who Like Harry Potter

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme developed by The Broke and The Bookish where bloggers from around the world discuss their responses to a given prompt.  This week we are suggesting 10 books that would suit readers who like a given type of literature.  I’ve decided to go for 10 books for Harry Potter fans- 5 for younger readers and 5 for grown-ups.

For Younger Readers:

The Worst Witch- Jill Murphy

Come and enter Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, the original boarding school with a focus on witchcraft and the fore-runner of Hogwarts.  This book and its sequels were some of my favourite books as a child and I really identified with Mildred Hubble.  I’ve recently started pushing these books into the hands of pupils at my school and they are really enjoying them.  One loved Mildred so much she even dressed up as her on World Book Day!

The Dark Portal- Robin Jarvis

The Deptford Mice and Whitby series are the books that really got me into reading.  I was around 10 years old and just couldn’t put them down.  My favourite was The Crystal Prison (the second of the Deptford Mice books) but it makes no sense to put that on the list.  You really need to start at the beginning.  These books deal with themes of good/evil/family/belief just like Rowling does in the Harry Potter series.  A great next step  for young Potter fans.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen- Alan Garner

I absolutely love Harry Potter but I believe that if you want to read classic Middle Grade/Young Adult fantasy then you need to look at the work of Alan Garner.  It was hard to decide between this book and The Owl Service but I felt that this book just edged it in terms of appealing to Potter fans.

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH- Robert C. O’Brien

Another MG classic.  I actually didn’t read this until I was an adult studying for a PGDip in Children’s Literature but I wish that I had come across it as a child.  My husband read it when he was young and classes it as one of his favourite children’s books.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret- Brian Selznick

I have only just read this a few weeks ago but I know that this is going to become one of my favourite books ever.  I’ve already given it to several pupils at school to read and am currently looking in to how I can build a unit of work around it.  It’s absolutely magical and I’m going to be posting a full review of this very soon!

For Older Readers:

Neverwhere- Neil Gaiman

Does Neverwhere feature on all of my lists? It seems to feature on a heck of a lot of them. But, then it deserves to!  Richard Mayhew, like Harry, is an underdog who ends up plunged into a strange new world peopled by quirky and unusual characters.  Just as you’ll never see King’s Cross the same way after reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Neverwhere changed the way I think of London landmarks such as The British Museum and Harrods.

Mort- Terry Pratchett

Basically, any of the Discworld books could have fit in this list but my favourite are those which feature Death.  After the radio version of Good Omens, Colin Morgan said that he’d like to play Mort whilst he’s still young enough to do so.  Come on, BBC- he is the perfect person for a radio production of Mort! Maybe it could be the next big Christmas audioplay!

The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm- Robert Galbraith (J.K.Rowling)

I couldn’t get into The Casual Vacancy and it almost put me off trying any of Rowling’s books for adults.  I am so glad that I took a chance with The Cuckoo’s Calling.  Cormoran and Robin are up there with Harry, Hermione and Ron in my opinion.  I absolutely love the way that she stops them from being just stock crime-novel characters and really fleshes out their back stories and their wants and desires.  If anything, I liked The Silkworm even more!  I can’t wait for the BBC adaptations to be made.

Rivers of London- Ben Aaronovitch

The PC Peter Grant books would be a great next step for grown up Harry Potter fans.  It has an irreverent humour but also a basis in myth, legend and fairy tale that is similar to the influences in Rowling’s writing.

Children’s Book Character Quiz

As part of our school’s celebrations for World Book Day I put together a quiz for the staff where they had to identify the book characters from the pictures (some pictures were from film/TV adaptations). Lots of people had a go but I had few returned sheets because people couldn’t get them all and felt it wasn’t worth entering as they wouldn’t win. Basically, I had made it too hard.

Anyway, here are the image sheets if you’d like to have a go. (BTW, the first page is a bit sparse as I took the details off about deadlines and where to hand answers in to).

say her name

REVIEW: Say Her Name- James Dawson

Drip…drip…drip…In five days, she will come…Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of Bloody Mary: say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear…But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it? Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror – five days – but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before…A truly spine-chilling yet witty horror from ‘Queen of Teen’ author James Dawson.

I’ve often said on this blog that I didn’t used to like horror; in fact, for years I avoided a lot of, what would often be classified as, “genre fiction”. However, when I sat down a few weeks ago and really thought about my reading as a teenager I realised that my Young Adult days were spent reading a heck of a lot of horror- Point Horror to be exact! I read these books avidly and I absolutely loved them. I’m not sure what changed my view on horror and when I started looking down my nose on it- probably when I started studying literature more seriously at degree level- but I’ve recently started reading horror fiction again. I decided that it was time to take a look at YA horror and see what the next generation are being scared by, so where better to start than with the reigning Queen of Teen, James Dawson?

I think we’ve all heard of the Bloody Mary urban legend. I don’t really believe in ghosts but still wouldn’t actually stand in front of a mirror and say those words in case Mary decided to pop up and show me that she really did exist. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that anyone who is stupid enough to do so deserves to be tormented by a crazy-ass ghost! I suppose that I was expecting to just be annoyed at the main characters for that reason- why on earth put yourself in that position? However, Dawson’s portrayal of the dynamics of teen friendships and the tension between frenemies meant that I did actually understand why Bobbie got involved in the dare. Dawson captured those moments of wanting to stand out, wanting to be noticed and wanting to do something. I suppose his days of being a secondary school teacher really worked in his favour in terms of capturing the depictions of teenagers. The dialogue in particular felt really authentic- just like sitting behind Year 11 pupils on the bus.

As I said before, I wasn’t initially sure about the concept-Bloody Mary? Mirrors? Hasn’t it all been done before? However, the boarding school setting and the authentic voices just made it all seem more fresh. Also, Dawson references how common the legend is (and even mentions the episode of Supernatural) adding credence to the idea that if something becomes well known there must be something behind it in the first place. To me, the novel felt like it was structured along the basis of a traditional horror film- initial death in another setting, introduction of main characters, transgression of “the rules”, tertiary characters die, main face-off, final scare. It didn’t try to play with the formula or shake it up too much, but I feel that this is in its favour. The story screams of 80s/90s horror influence and so the traditional horror/slasher format works really well. It fits.

Now, the main question when dealing with horror- is it scary? Erm, in the most part I didn’t find it too frightening (except for right at the end) but I can imagine that 14 year old me would have been awake for days! I did, however, find it really engaging and addictive- I read most of it in one night! I love the idea of Dawson’s newest novel, Under My Skin, and really look forward to tracking a copy down and reading this.


My Geeky Home- Comic Inspired Office Space

Last week at Bolton Comic Con Mr H and I bought our first ever Funko figures- a Pop Daenerys Targaryen for him and two Disney Mystery Minis for me- Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh! We’ve decided to position them on top of the computer desk unit in our study room where they will cheer us up and motivate us whilst we’re blogging (me), lesson-planning (me) or listing jewellery items on etsy (him).  They look really sweet but I can see how this Funko collecting can get quite addictive.  Daenerys looks quite lonely without any other Game of Thrones characters and I’m dying to get some more Disney figures!

They seem to work really well alongside our other geeky items in the study/office area.  Currently we have out small ‘Sheroes’ Sophie Green postcard prints on display alongside the Dave Kennedy Hellboy postcard.  We’ve got a few A4 Sophie Green prints which need to be hung in here too (we have Wonder Woman, She-Hulk and Mystique) alongside our The Geekerie X-Men prints (Magneto can seen in the background of the photo).  We’ve not long moved in so the house decoration is a work in progress but we are getting there. We’re got a house full of little hints at our geeky passions so I thought that I might make a regular feature of showing some of our favourite fandom-inspired items!

World Book Day

My outfit for World Book Day 2015 was much more low-key than usual. The main reason for this was that I decided not to make a tail out of the faux fur I had designated for my ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ Max outfit. I therefore had a very short amount of time, and limited budget, to create a book-themed look. 

I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan and decided that I would try and draw attention to his amazing writing for children by dressing as Coraline (inspired by the film version). I had a blue and white starry fleece jumper (actually nightwear) which I wore over jeans and then bought a cheap blue wig and a butterfly clip (couldn’t find a dragonfly) from the kid’s accessories section at Tesco.

I enjoyed talking about the book with staff and children throughout the day but did miss my usual more extravagant approach to the day. To be honest, if you took the wig off it was actually a more low-key look than I would usually wear to work on a daily basis. Ooops.