Book snatching?!

Hello, tis Wednesday guest blog time again! This time you are very lucky to be in the hands of my lovely Irish friend Aoife, blogger extraordinaire over at Pretty Purple Polka Dots and Twitterer to the max at @PrettyPPD (you should probably follow her, it’s a good idea kids). 
She’s going to talk to you all about the books on my shelves that she wants to get her hands on! 
Without further ado…
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Steph and I are in a vicious cycle where we recommend each other books and then probably never end up actually reading them. This time, it’s time to break the chain and actually read something she has.

I took a peek at Steph’s (well stocked) personal library and picked out five tomes I’d love to get my hands on. All I have to do is turn up at her place and demand them. Simple.

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Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick
 
I love Anna Kendrick  – she’s hilarious in Pitch Perfect, and when I found out she was releasing a book I knew I had to get my hands on it.
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Flawed – Cecelia Ahern
 
I love Cecelia’s more grown up work and I’d really love to give her YA fiction a go.

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The Graces – Laure Eve
This was read by my book club in Dublin and they all loved it. I missed the meeting because I was in Wales at the time doing an MA, so I think I have a little catching up to do.
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The Scarecrow trilogy – Melinda Salisbury

Steph has been singing the praises of this series for months, so I’m really tempted. This is one that’s going straight on my TBR.

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Silence is Goldfish – Annabel Pitcher
 
Cheating a little – Steph actually sent me this book a few months ago. 
 
Aoife

Pretty Purple Polka Dots
@PrettyPPD 
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Thank you so much Aoife! Consider these books on their way to you once they’ve been read! 
S x

Favourite YA authors

Hello! It’s Wednesday! You know what that means, guest post Wednesday (I really need to think of a new name for this, that’s better! But hey ho, we’ll go with guest post wednesday for now!) 

Without further ado, I welcome my lovely friend Amy (links at the bottom of the post) who is here to talk about her favourite YA books! You can check out my post on Amy’s blog too in the next few days! I would love to see what you all think about our choices!

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Thanks for having me Steph to discuss my favourite YA books! When we decided to do this, I didn’t realise how difficult it would be. I eventually narrowed my list down and realised the books that have really stayed with me are set in vivid fantasy worlds, with characters that made me care about what happened to them.

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Northern Lights by Philip Pullman was the book that got me into fantasy. I’ve seen the play, travelled across the country to meet Philip Pullman and read it more times than I can count. There aren’t many books that I was able to read as a child and still get so much out of as an adult. I’m not sure it’s technically a YA book but I’m including it because it has something for everybody.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is my ultimate YA book. I can still remember the first time I read it, how I had no idea what was coming and really loved those characters. Karou and Akiva are my ultimate OTP and Laini Taylor’s writing is beautiful.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna Marie McLemore is one of those books that engages all of the senses. The descriptions are lyrical and gorgeous, and this is my favourite example of magical realism.

The Forbidden Game by LJ Smith was my favourite book as a teenager. I read it so many times that I almost knew it by heart and I think Julian was my first book crush. I reread it recently and it has definitely stood the test of time.

These are my other favourites: a mixture of high concept fantasy; believable, thought-provoking contemporary and even a little horror.

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  • Glass Houses (The Morganville Vampires) by Rachel Caine
  • Am I normal yet? by Holly Bourne
  • The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
  • Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
  • The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  • Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
  • Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

If you want to read more of my YA recommendations or chat about books, you can find me on Twitter (@yaundermyskin) and on my blog (www.yaundermyskin.co.uk).

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As you can see a lot of my personal favourites are on Amy’s long list, but to see my list of favourite YA I would love you to go over to my post at YA Under My Skin to find out my choices!

Thanks Amy for your guest post, I loved it! 

S x

Mental Health in YA

Hello Wednesday folks! Sorry this is late, I have had a mega stressful week, however you are in for a treat with this guest blog this week. My gorgeous friend Rachel, over-lady of #SundayYA, #SundayYAthon and 100-or-less has popped along to talk about YA books which discuss one of the most important things to a person – their mental health. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week next week so it was only natural that this fit in perfectly here!!

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Mental Health in YA: Some recommendations

For those of you that don’t know, next week (8th to 14th May) is the Mental Health Awareness Week. Over at #SundayYA I will be hosting a chat on mental health YA with some lovely guest authors, but today I want to share with you some of my favourite YA that talk about and raise awareness of mental health issues.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia follows the story of Alex, a girl diagnosed with schizophrenia, as she tries to figure out the world with her Magic 8-Ball and her trusty camera. She thinks she has it all sorted out but then she meets Miles, and Alex begins to question her reality. As the title suggests, the story is told from first person so it’s pretty hard to tell what is real and what is due to Alex schizophrenia, but all this makes Made You Up a wonderful insight into what it is like to live with psychosis, and how those with a diagnosis can learn to live with it.

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An older YA that deals with mental health, and one that often gets overlooked, is My Heart And Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. Aysel wants to commit suicide and, in her search for a Suicide Partner, meets Roman. They plot their death together but, in doing so, Aysel realises she has a lot more reasons to live. I thought this would be a very difficult read and at times I was ready to give up on it, but it turned out to be a beautifully hopeful story of rediscovery that I fell in love with.

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A book I have recently read that talking about mental health is Countless by Karen Gregory. Hedda has anorexia (which she refers to throughout her story as a person called Nia), but when she discovers she is pregnant she calls a truce with her eating disorder. As she goes through the pregnancy she learns that some choices are harder than others, and not everything in life can be counted. Countless is a particularly harrowing read, but one that I couldn’t put down. What struck me about this book was that, despite dealing with eating disorders, not once is a number mentioned. I found this to be rather important, as it demonstrates that it is possible to tell a story about mental health that can be realistic without being potentially triggering.

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I couldn’t talk about mental health in YA without mentioning Under Rose-Tainted Skies, an Own Voices novel by Louise Gornall. Norah has agoraphobia and OCD and has accepted that the four walls of her house will be where she spends her life. That is, until Luke turns up on her door and changes everything. He’s patient and understanding, and sees Norah for who she really is. Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a truly wonderful read, and one that shows that sometimes, it’s okay to take risks.

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On the topic of OCD, another YA I have loved, and the only one so far I have re-read, is Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne. Evie has OCD and believes she is coping with it, but as she starts college and makes new friends she soon begins to spiral out of control. Although Am I Normal Yet? deals with some pretty tough themes, it manages to be light hearted and funny throughout, which made this story really stand out to me and will see me go back to it many times in the future.

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There are a lot of YA books about anxiety, but recently I really enjoyed reading A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard. Steffi is a selective mute and struggles to communicate to people outside of her immediate family. Her headteacher introduces her to Rhys, who is deaf, and with her limited understanding of British Sign Language she builds a friendship she can truly be a part of. A Quiet Kind of Thunder really captures what it is to have anxiety, and is written in such a way that, by the time I read the last page, I felt like I was parting ways with a friend.

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Mental health comes in many forms, and a YA read that particularly stands out when I think of neurodiversity is The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas. The State of Grace follows Grace, a narrator with Asperger’s, as she comes to term with a lot of changes in her life whilst trying to fit in with her friends. I found the State of Grace to be not just enjoyable but fascinating to read and, as someone who works with students on the ASD spectrum, a real insight into what it is like to be on the spectrum. I learnt a lot from reading it, and will carry this story with me for a long time to come.

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Of course, there are a lot of amazing YA books out there that talk about mental health, but these are the ones that have particularly stood out for me. Happy reading!

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Thank you so much to Rachel for writing this incredible insightful blog all about different YA books which deal with mental health, in all its variations. 

Rachel’s links (you should follow her, she’s incredible!)

Remember to join in #SundayYA chats on Sundays between 6 and 7 pm!

I have read and reviewed some of these books and the ones which I have not I will be buying AS SOON AS my May book ban is over (you can read all about that here: You MAY not buy any books)

Reviews:

Review of Countless to come, I just recently finished it and my word. I loved every second of it. It absolutely killed me. 

Have you read any of these books?
Which other YA books would you recommend for Mental Health Awareness Week?

S x

Books Worth Reading With Students

Welcome to the 5th installment in the guest blog posts! This time it comes from a teacher friend of mine from over the big pond, Gen!

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I’ve taught sixth-graders in America for 14 of my 16 years of teaching. Although I teach six subjects daily in my current position, Reading is my true passion. Over the years, a late grade partner and I built up our grade level’s collection of chapter books to read with our students. Three books from the collection stand out to me, and it is these three texts that I consider to be Books Worth Reading With Students.

Let’s first take a look at a book called Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz-Ryan. In this text, a young girl (Esperanza) faces life-changing tragedies and is forced to let go of her old life in order to grow up and thrive in a new one. What my students enjoy about this book is how relatable Esperanza is. She’s smart, she’s stubbornly determined, and yet, she’s fallible. Since Esperanza is roughly the same age as my students, they rally behind her and cheer her on all the way to the last page of the book.

What I enjoy about the book are the historical tie-ins and the themes. The plot begins in post-revolution Mexico and ends in post-Depression America, in California specifically. Reading Esperanza Rising gives us a chance to study the facts behind the fiction. We also get to explore rich themes like family, loss, growth, and rebirth. My students and I have deep discussions and make strong text-to-self connections.

A second worthwhile read from our shelf is a book called The Cay, written by Theodore Taylor. In this text, a young boy and an old man battle blindness, prejudice, and nature as they establish a friendship and try to survive being shipwrecked and stranded. My students honestly find this book to be shocking during the first several chapters. The plot’s WWII backdrop and the author’s character development creates tension from the get-go. As the main characters, Phillip and Timothy, become more 3-dimensional and their circumstances more desperate, my students join in their plight, celebrate their victories, and mourn their losses.

What I find most of value in the text is Phillip’s transformation. It allows my students to examine their own prejudices and to reflect on the power of true friendship. The a-ha moments that sprout from our conversations as we explore The Cay make this book a truly worthy read.

The third text that I recommend reading with students is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. In this text, a captive gorilla named Ivan makes a promise to a friend and finds himself (and freedom) in the process of keeping his promise. What hooks my students is how “human” Ivan comes across as a character. My students empathize with Ivan’s captivity and patiently wait to see how he will keep his promise, given his circumstances. Ivan’s loyalty and courage are inspirational to witness as readers.

What I appreciate about the text is the undercurrent of topics that can be explored with students if scaffolded carefully. For instance, the topics of animals in captivity and the training of animals in captive settings has really peaked my current class’s curiosity. Using appropriate online resources, my students would be able to take a stance regarding the treatment of animals and argue their claims intelligently. When a text offers these kinds of experiences for a teacher to present to her students, that text is indeed a worthwhile read.

Books like these not only introduce award-winning literature and literary devices to students, but also they challenge readers to think beyond the text. They encourage deep discussions about universal themes. They inspire readers to connect with characters and events on a personal level. And to a teacher like me, such experiences with good literature are priceless.

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It’s amazing to find out the texts that have an impact in different schools, to different teachers and in different countries. It’s funny how stories are universal but stories they use in America aren’t stories they use over here in the UK. It’s always good to share the good practice we all use every day. I found this guest post fascinating and I looked up these books and bought them to check them out for myself.

Thank you Gen for sharing your views on reading and sharing the books you use in your classroom! Certainly opened by eyes to some new books and I can’t wait to read them. 

If you want to follow Gen, you’ll find her here on Twitter and her wonderful blog here.

S x

Book Happiness Project

Welcome to the 4th guest blog of the year! I am so happy to introduce you all to my lovely friend Aimee – her links will be at the bottom of the post!

Well hello dear readers of Steph’s gorgeous blog, A Little But A Lot!

I am delighted that Steph has asked me to write yet another guest post for her ever-blossoming blog, which I absolutely love. We discussed topic options and it was decided that I’d share with you all a very exciting 2017 project that I’m involved with – The Book Happiness Project.

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The Book Happiness Project is a year-long project designed to spread bookish love and bring together the Book Blogging and BookTube communities. By bringing together these two communities, we’re hoping that it inspires your creative flair and inspires you to join us on our journey with this amazing project. With a total of 12 hosts; we’re aiming to bring exciting themes each month, along with some amazing challenges and readathons that you can all be a part of.

Each month has two main hosts and to kick off 2017, the theme is Happiness in New. January’s theme is hosted by Hannah over at A Cup of Wonderland and Taylor at Bookaflix Taylor – both amazing BookTubers, so please do check them out when you have time. Without these two gorgeous ladies The Book Happiness Project wouldn’t be happening, so it’s only right that they kick off the year with Happiness In New.

So what is Happiness in New all about?

Here are the beautiful Hannah and Taylor explaining what The Happiness Book Project has in store for this month:

Hannah’s video

Taylor’s video

I do hope you guys will join in with this phenomenal project as much as possible over the year by and if you want to find out more then check out my announcement blog post: My blog announcement and join in the conversations over on Twitter by using the #BookHappinessProject.

Sending much bookish happiness and love your way,

Aimee x

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I think this is such an incredible idea! It’s lovely to unite all of the book lovers in the world. We all love books and sharing all of this incredible creativity is wonderful. I can’t wait to see what the year has in store for the #BookHappinessProject folk! 

Thank you so much Aimee for writing this blog post!

You can find Aimee here on Twitter and here on her blog.

S x

Routes into teaching…

A while back I started a guest blogger Wednesday session and this week it’s the turn of my wonderful friend Kathryn who’s sharing her route into teaching! I am so proud of her and can’t  wait for you guys to read her route into teaching – it is so different to my own! 

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Quite some time ago, Steph shared her teaching story. It had never been in doubt that she was made to be a teacher – having seen her in the classroom, I cannot imagine any place she would fit in more. Though her route has been less conventional, her passion for teaching hasn’t ever wavered. That is where Steph and I differ. No one ever thought I was made to be a teacher and all my life’s pursuits hadn’t really been with that goal in mind – which is hard to believe now I’m doing it!

I’m going to take you back first to my own school days, in Primary specifically. I adored school; reading books, mental maths tests, writing diary entries as a WWII evacuee… My parents often tell me how much of a terror I was before school. Reportedly, I never slept and required constant attention to keep my mind occupied. They agreed that school sorted that – I had an outlet for my energies: learning.
My first real memory of maths lessons was mental maths tests with Mrs Kennedy every morning after break in Year 3. I remember wanting to rush back from break to do them, but mostly I remember that the kid next to me had the same initials as me. That meant both of us had to write our FULL NAMES on the top of the paper – horrifying (if you’re reading Kristian then you’ll remember that pain!) Not the best first impression, I’ll admit, but I have to assume my love started here. I continued to love it throughout school and I ended up taking a Level 6 paper in Year 6.
I had a brief foray into humanities in Secondary school. I love history – at 7 I bought a book detailing the history of British Kings and Queens and at 11 I did a mini project (not even as homework *geek*) on the Romans in the summer holidays. After a Summer School learning about Law, I realised that wordy subjects weren’t for me, so at 6th Form I took Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry, and History. Despite my love of it, the day I dropped History to get a timetable primarily made up of Maths was one of the best days EVER. I was even helping out in Maths lessons lower down in the school because I was enjoying it so much. My A Level teachers were phenomenal, in all my courses. My maths teachers specifically had an unashamed passion for their subjects that they were even more willing to share as the topics got more complex and interlinked. They spent time sitting with me one to one, discussing methods and patterns and even recommending mathematical books. A few of my A Level class also went with our Core Maths teacher (Mr B) to a lecture at Liverpool University by Marcus du Sautoy (Mathematical celebrity alert!) – while we were chatting at his book signing after, Dr B introduced me as one of his most promising students!

My path was set to be mathematical, including studying it at University, but I hadn’t yet decided what I wanted to do after that. Cue the inspiration for my future – Dad was self-employed at the time and asked his accountant if I should consider an accounting future. He told my dad I should look into ‘the most mathematical of mathematical jobs’: Actuarial Science. We put in a lot of research, and the subject matter seemed an interesting application of my degree, with a whopping wage to boot. I applied for summer internships in 2011 which saw me in York for a few months, even extending my stay by 2 weeks because I loved it so much. This was followed up by a place on the interview day for the Graduate Scheme in October – I landed an Actuarial job by Christmas 2011.

Entering the working world is daunting for anyone I think, but it seemed even more so with a move even further from home and into a high-pressure profession with yet more exams to pass to become qualified. I wasn’t alone though – I made some fantastic friends at this job and we got through the first few months by banding very closely together. However, while everyone else started to get on their feet and into a groove, I started to feel a little at sea. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the job, but once the initial thrill of working and being paid had faded, I realised I wasn’t doing maths like I thought I would be. I was working with economics and finance more than the subject I loved – that was in the background, in a spreadsheet someone else had already made. I struggled through my first placement on the scheme, hoping that a new department would mean less economics and more maths. Sadly, it didn’t and I felt worse and worse where I was. I was dealing with figures on spreadsheets that didn’t feel real to me, and struggling to put them together with economic theory and real life.
I began volunteering for the council on their ‘Right to Read’ scheme, which saw professionals from the local area using volunteering hours provided by their employers to read with Primary School children. This became the highlight of my week – not only was I outside of the office, I was helping to ignite a passion of my own in a younger generation (I also like books, A LOT). They were wonderful kids – so smiley and happy to see me once a week, and we had some marvellous conversations about books! I toyed with the idea of teaching, even signing up to the Get Into Teaching site. I got put off by many people when I mentioned it, as I’d be giving up a ridiculously well paid and highly regarded profession… and “who knows if it will even be any better?” So I struggled on.

This is the not so nice part of my story. This is the part I don’t often talk about because talking about mental illness is a huge taboo… I have some terrible anxiety issues, and have struggled with them on and off since Secondary School. But this job took that to the next level and I became incredibly ill. I went to work on auto-pilot for a while, to an extent that the work I did at Half Year didn’t register with me at all – when I got asked to do it again at Year End I had no idea what I was doing because I literally did not remember doing it. In 2015 I began having panic attacks and my anxiety was at the highest level it had ever been – I was signed off work for 6 weeks. I was still getting the Get Into Teaching promotional material and I used this time off to get some school experience and decide if I really wanted to do it. I went to observe secondary maths teaching in the next town – as much as I loved the time with the little ones I knew I couldn’t deal with it every day – I commend those of you that do! I loved it – teachers invited me to help them out in the classroom and I felt at home. Talking about the subject I love and helping others to understand it just clicked – it was everything I was missing in the job I was in. I decided to apply for a PGCE.

My PGCE was a fantastic experience. I did a School Direct scheme, as being locked away at University again seemed too much after being in the working world for 3 years. My main placement was at a gorgeous school, with a wonderful maths department and the best mentor I could have asked for. I hope I am friends with those people forever – they helped me in so many ways, and taught me so much about being an excellent teacher in such a short space of time…. AND they introduced me to Teacher Twitter, where I have made even more wonderful friends. I can’t fault either the Red Kite Alliance or University of York for their support through the year.
I was lucky enough to get a job before Christmas on my PGCE and I am now an NQT teaching Maths at Secondary School! I can wholeheartedly say that my career change was the best decision I have ever made – it was scary in so many ways, but I am infinitely happier as a teacher than I ever was as an actuary. It’s hard to believe now that I ever did anything else, or thought that I should. I love dealing with people and I love maths. I get to be a total maths geek all day and get paid for it. It’s a match made in heaven really… But even more than that I’ve discovered a love for teaching and pedagogy. I love finding new ways to think about topics that I used to think were mundane and my colleagues are the exact same. I feel like I’m perfectly placed.
I also love the kids I work with – OK, some don’t do their homework on time and talk over me a lot, but they are such wonderful kids with sparkling personalities. They can be sassy and funny, but also generous and caring. We can be arguing about the best Avenger one minute or singing ‘The Circle Song’, then discussing world politics the next. Even though my Year 12s just make fun of my ‘glistening eyes’ as I tell them another history of maths story, I hope that I am helping them to realise the beauty of mathematics through my passion for it. The fact I get to share any of that with them is a gift. Plus, sometimes students remember that you love birthday cake and bring you a slice for a snack…

3 stars and above, please

Welcome to guest blog number 2, this time coming from my wonderful friend Kelly – This Northern Gal (her details are at the bottom of this blog post!).

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I’m not a very good book-worm, or book-blogger for that matter. I think Shakespeare is kind of over rated, and way too overvalued in English schooling. I don’t have much time for Austen. My bookcases aren’t picture perfect and my collection is spread between houses. I tend not to have all the latest books, nor the prettiest editions.

Worse than that though, I only share positive reviews on my blog.

In part, that is because I have always wanted This Northern Gal to be a positive place, where I share the things I have been loving and that have been making me happy. That ethos continues to the books that I choose to share there. If I love a book, I want to write about it in the hopes that someone else will love it too. I’ve found that to be slightly more effective than babbling incoherently and thrusting my favourite books at confounded friends.

But more than that, it’s due to a much bigger decision to avoid reading books that I don’t enjoy in my free time.

You see, I read a lot of books. A LOT. I’m four years into a degree in Classical Studies and English which means that I’m constantly carrying books and trying to deny how long my to-be-read list is. At its worst, I was expected to work on three novels a week, as well as critical reading, and you know, sleeping. Anna Karenina and Great Expectations were among the lists too, if that helps you feel bad for me.

It’s calmed down a little now but not by much. So, to save my love of reading from total annihilation I promised myself that I don’t have to read any books that I don’t want to in my free time. If I’m not into it in the first 25% of it, I stop.

Some, that I think I could enjoy but are too much of a challenging read for right now, are added to my post-graduation list. Anything too dense or too long is reserved for that glorious time of unemployment. As is the entire Harry Potter series because I have been waiting a long, long time to re-read that.

Only books that I am enjoying make it to my blog because they are the books that I spend my time reading.

The kind of books that I read has also changed during my degree. My love for fantasy has increased, and I’ve been really enjoying short stories and poetry at the moment. Books that make a delightful treat after a long day of studying or working are on my agenda and therefore my blog.  I no longer feel guilty about that, about not ticking every box that comes with the title of ‘book worm’, ‘book blogger’ or even ‘literature student’. Why should I?

I might not have a very balanced blog, or read the books that I should but I do love to read. Surely that’s what matters. Especially if it gives me a chance to natter about books with other literary lovers.

 If that makes me a bad book blogger, then I’ll wear that badge with pride.

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I think the message that Kelly is getting across is SO important here and it’s one that I stand by firmly. There are books that I read that I don;t particularly enjoy but I would never put a negative review on my blog. I want this blog, just as Kelly wants hers, to be a place of positivity. Books are one of the things that I love most about the world and about my little world. I have all the time in the world for supporting incredible authors and their incredible stories. I’ll always be honest, I’ll always tell you my real thoughts about a book but I would hate to think that people thought of A Little But A Lot as a negative place. 

If you’d like to follow Kelly (and I suggest that would be a wise move on your part) you’ll find her:
Twitter

Youtube

Instagram

This Northern Gal blog

Thank you so much Kelly for this wonderful message,

S x

It All Started In September…

Welcome to the first of many fortnightly guest blogs! The first comes from one of my most recent twitter pals Jack. Without further ado…

It started in September. Sitting at a forty-five-degree angle in a hospital bed, having recently undergone the most uncomfortable seven minutes of my life to date. I won’t go into too much detail, but it ends in ‘-oscopy’. After being informed that the pain I’d been suffering on and off for the previous three years was fistulating Crohn’s Disease, I wasn’t in the best of places (mentally or physically). Enter Darren Shan.

I read sporadically in primary school, enough to get my parents off my back and pull me through the year six tests with a level four. Less in secondary, apart from a spike when Horowitz’s ‘Power of 5’ series dropped. I read when I had to, rarely for pleasure. Throughout my time at university, I obviously read for assignments/dissertation etc. but it was never for ‘pleasure’. Even through my first three years of teaching, despite incessantly banging on at the students I taught to read, preaching about how crucial it was – what a hypocrite! 

That all changed at Leicester Royal Infirmary. The fellows I shared a ward with largely slept, the Wi-Fi wasn’t free (I know, I was appalled too), and I ended up filling my time with random, inane activities. 84 tiles on the ceiling, in case you were wondering. A year five child I had taught the previous year recommended a series of books to me, The Saga of Darren Shan. This child’s writing was some of the best I’ve seen at primary, and I’d noticed how darkly descriptive it always was. I wasn’t far through the first book before I realised why.

Anyway, I rinsed through the entire twelve-book series, the following four-book series explaining the life of Larten Crepsley (a huge character in the Shan series), and RJ Palacio’s ‘Wonder’ in the space of two weeks. A reader was born.

I took this new, overflowing love for reading into my classroom. And boy have the children responded to it. I was so proud to hear that lots of them had received books for as Christmas presents, and many of them brought them to school to show me. Reading has become an integral part of our learning. We’re constantly talking about books. There isn’t a groan when I say that we’re reading more of our class book (currently ‘Sweet Pizza’, thank you to Mr. Booth).

However, hospital made me a reader. Reading Rocks ’16 is where the reading teacher exploded. I spent the day listening intently to the likes of Mat Tobin, James Clements, Neill Cameron and Michael Tidd talk about reading. The venue itself breathed reading (nods towards The District CE Primary School). I met people such as Simon Smith and the enigmatic That Boy Can Teach, both inspirational teachers with a passion for reading and its effect on a child’s education.

So, from September to December, I read like a lunatic. It was December when I first heard about the ‘52 book challenge’, where people were attempting to read fifty-two books during a calendar year. This sort of thing resonates with me for a two main reasons: 

  • I love reading.
  • I love counting and recording things.

Yes, I love counting things. I love keeping records of what I’ve done. I count and record the different football grounds I’ve visited. I count and record the countries I’ve travelled to. I even count and record, with the help of last.fm, the songs I listen to. So, this challenge appealed to me greatly in that respect.

In practice, I’m aware that it’s going to be difficult. I make time to read before bed. How much I read varies wildly from two words to one hundred pages. But I want to do this. My class have loved hearing about the challenge, and have all taken sheets home to record progress for their own challenges.

I’m writing this blog two weeks into the challenge, and roughly 80% through my second book. It’s been difficult. It’s been hard to read on school nights, and I haven’t read as much as I would like to on those nights. However, it’s important that this challenge doesn’t become a ‘Oh, I must read x number of pages tonight otherwise I’m not going to reach y target’ type of thing. Sleep is important, and being as fit as possible to teach my children is important.

My Twitter feed will be updated every time I finish a book, as will my Goodreads page (if you aren’t on Goodreads, get on it! There’s a group for teachers doing the challenge). Thanks for reading my first ever blog. Thanks to Steph (@eenalol) for allowing me the space on her fantastic blog, check out her other posts if you’re stumbling across this page for the very first time.

Keep reading.

@Mr_P_Hillips

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Thank you so much to Jack for agreeing to be my first guest blogger! 

This blog is important to me in so many ways. It promotes reading, it promotes teacher reading and it shows that reading really is one of the most amazing things. Jack is so right that there are some wonderful book loving educaters out there on twitter. The conversation is always there to be had, just tweet one of us!

Go and follow Jack on Twitter, his handle is in the post.

S x

Christmas Cora-ling!

IT’S GUEST BLOGGER TIMEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. This time round we have one of my newest blogger pals and she is amazing. We’ve been friends on Twitter for a while but (like I’ve been mentioning in lots of posts recently) we met at YAShot in London in October. We bonded more over our love of books and wine! (If you were following me on Instagram at the time you would’ve seen my pictures of wine… they were ALL CORA’S FAULT). You should all go and check out Cora, she’s incredible and her blog is lush! She’s a northern book loving gal like me… what’s not to love!! (links at the bottom of this post!!) 
What are your favourite things to do in Winter/Christmas time?
Every December, I drop whatever I was reading before and I throw myself into festive reading. If it has even the merest hint of Christmas or winter, I’m all over it. It’s something I only started when I started blogging, but it is so much fun. Then when Christmas passes, it’s a made rush to finish those books I unceremoniously dumped in those few days before New Year – I love a fresh start with new books.
Perhaps my favourite thing, when it’s cold and wet outside, is to curl up with a blanket draped around me, a scented candle burning away, a hot cup of tea on the table, a book in my hand… And escape into a book.
What were some presents you loved as a child?
I probably loved books second best at Christmas, because when I was a wee yin I loved Polly Pockets. I could sit for hours playing with those tiny figures, playing out any and every story in my head. I had all of the book shaped ones and those were my favourites – I used to set them side-by-side and imagine transporting through worlds like the Pevensie children stepping through the wardrobe.
If you could have Christmas anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I love Christmas with my family, and I wouldn’t change it. I love the mad scramble mid-December to tidy the living room for the tree – we’re a very messy bunch – and then never putting on The Big Light for the rest of the year, lighting our way with fairy lights. I love waking early, sitting on the floor and arguing over who will make the tea, and then drinking bucks fizz anyway. I love the six hour family Man vs Food event that is Christmas Dinner, and the dogs circling the table like hopeful, land-bound buzzards. I love the board games and charades as we laze around the table picking at left-overs and ignoring the dishes, cackling again at the bad Christmas cracker jokes…

I wouldn’t change a single thing, but it could be anywhere so long as it’s with my family.

Tea Party Princess Book Blog

Cora’s Blog – Tea Party Princess
Cora’s Goodreads
Cora’s twitter

Now go my friends and follow Cora, you won’t regret it!! 

Thank you so much to Cora for agreeing to write this blog for me for my first blogmas! It means the world! 

S xx

What I’m Reading This Christmas

It’s Wednesday, you know what that means! It’s GUEST BLOG POST TIME! 

This time you get the joy of hearing from one of my favourite people in the world. Readers, this is Rachel. Rachel is the absolute mastermind behind #SundayYA (which is an incredible twitter chat which happens between 6 and 7 EVERY Sunday where we talk everything YA). Come along to #SundayYA, you won’t regret it! If you want to follow Rach, you’ll find her @_sectumsemprah on twitter! Go on, you won’t regret it!! She’s also one of the editors of the new YA quarterly online magazine @Shift_Zine… follow them too! That’s gonna be awesome!!

What I’m Reading This Christmas

It’s that time of year again. The festive lights are up, coffee chains have brought out their trademark festive cups… It must be Christmas! That can only mean one thing. It’s time to curl up on the sofa with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate and immerse myself in some festive reads. Here’s what I’ll be reading this Christmas.

Related imageThe Twelve Days of Dash and Lily (Rachel Cohn and David Levithan)

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily is set a year after the original Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.
Lily has had a tough year and has lost her happy outlook and Christmas spirit, so it’s up to Dash and Langston (Lily’s brother) to rekindle the holiday magic. Told in alternating chapters,
The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily is sure to get readers ready for the festive season.

Image result for and a happy new year holly bourne… And A Happy New Year? (Holly Bourne)

Just when we thought we’d seen the end of our favourite Spinster Club, they’re back with a novella about a New Year’s party they will never forget. Secrets are revealed and
friendships tested but surely everything will be okay for Evie, Amber and Lottie in the end… Right? Full of tears and laughter,
… And A Happy New Year? is guaranteed to a magical end to a series readers have loved.

Image result for i'll be home for christmas bookI’ll Be Home For Christmas (UKYA Anthology)

I’ll Be Home For Christmas is the ultimate Christmas read for 2016. A star line up of UKYA authors, including Holly Bourne, Non Pratt and Juno Dawson to name but a few, have come together to write a collection of festive short stories on the theme of home. At least £1 from every copy sold is donated to Crisis, a homeless charity, and is a very special read.


Other great Christmas titles

  • This Winter (Solitaire Novella) (Alice Oseman)
  • Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (Rachel Cohn and David Levithan)
  • Mistletoe and Murder (Robin Stevens)