July 2016Weaving Pages: July 2016

Monday, 18 July 2016

Head Over Heels by Holly Smale

You may remember a while ago I wrote about how a book got me through my sister's operation, which you can read all about here. That same post made its way to the eyes of Holly Smale, who's book All That Glitters helped me in that really tough time, and in response I was sent this lovely pack of Geek Girl related things, along with the 5th book, which is the one I'm reviewing now. So before I begin, here's a massive thank you to Holly and HarperCollins for their kindness and being absolutely amazing in sending me the next instalment in one of my favourite series!
Title: Head Over Heels
Author: Holly Smale
Series: Geek Girl #5
Source: Publisher
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Published: April 7th 2016
No. of Pages: 416

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I will always be a geek.”
The fifth book in the bestselling, award-winning GEEK GIRL series.
Harriet Manners knows almost every fact there is.
She knows duck-billed platypuses don’t have stomachs.
She knows that fourteen squirrels were once detained as spies.
She knows only one flag in the world features a building.
And for once, Harriet knows exactly how her life should go. She’s got it ALL planned out. So when love is in the air, Harriet is determined to Make Things Happen!
If only everyone else would stick to the script…
Has GEEK GIRL overstepped the mark, and is following the rules going to break hearts all over again?

4 stars

Friday, 15 July 2016

5 Easy Ways To Improve the World This Summer

1. Volunteer

It's SUMMER! That means at least six weeks or more of holiday time, which you can spend volunteering. Just finished your exams? Great! Volunteering can help fatten up your CV ready for job applications or even University ones too. Head out to your local area and see if anyone is in need of volunteers; the best thing you can do is just ask. Local dog or cat rescue shelters are good places to start if you love animals, and I've known vets to take people on too. Clubs such as Brownies can always do with helpers, and if you're proficient in a sport there are often events organised for younger children that I can promise will be grateful for some help. I'm not even that sporty- dance is my preferred area -but I've actually helped out with three sport related events already this summer. Just remember, the opportunities you get are entirely dependant on you looking for them, so put yourself out there! Of course, you have to remember that availability can vary depending on your age, but if you look hard enough you are sure to find some great options that are suited to you.

2. Get Sponsored

This one is probably the most obvious, but it can make a world of a difference. In the summertime you will always find great events to take part in that you can get people to sponsor you for. Whether it's a marathon or colour run or a race through the mud, if it's for a good cause you'll find that people are happy to donate some money and sponsor you. Of course, this isn't limited to runs: you can get sponsored for loads of different activities. This can be sky diving if you're looking for something extreme, and even staying silent all day if you're not. Or be creative and organise a read-a-thon or a dance-off that people can get sponsored for partaking in. The point is, the choice is yours, and in the process you can raise money for a charity or local hospice, for example. You don't have to raise a huge amount of money; people will be grateful that you've put in the effort and contributed at least a small amount to furthering cancer research or helping refugees. That itself is amazing enough to improve the world.

3. Summer Clear Out

So school's over, and your parents are telling you to clear out your room. I've been there, although I have yet to properly do it- who knows when I'll need this year's maths notes? Still, I have a huge pile of unwanted books sat outside my bedroom door and I'm sure you are in a similar situation. All those old clothes, decorations, books and piles of 'things' you need to get rid of? Well they can improve the world. Donate them to charity shops or places like Oxfam and they can then sell them for a profit which can then be used to improve the lives of other people. It's as easy as literally shoving everything in your car and dropping it off at your local place. It's worth noting that old blankets and towels can also be given to dog and cat shelters, old books to libraries or schools and whole lot of other places. It's a simple thing to do- the only difference is that you don't class it as improving the world, when in reality, that's exactly what it is.

4. Use Your Artistic Talents

I've included something for the sporty people, but for all of you lot like me that prefer running in the opposite direction to a netball, this is another brilliant option. If you love art, you can produce some paintings or drawings that you can sell at local events like school fairs or festivals. The money you make can then be given to an organisation that supports something you feel strongly about, such as LOVE146 which aims to bring an end to human trafficking. The same applies for all types of art, including music or film; you're free to use what you love to help others. You also don't actually have to make money from these things. If you can, it's actually a whole lot more challenging but rewarding to produce art that raises awareness of a problem. If you need some inspiration, check out these photos by Linda Forsell that raise awareness of child pregnancies in poor countries. This is personally, one of my favourite options if you want to improve the world, because it shows some serious dedication to fighting injustice!

5. Get Writing

Maybe you've known you were going to be a world-class author since the age of two, or maybe you've just always loved reading. Maybe you hate reading with a passion (WHAT!?). It doesn't matter; you should try out some writing. You see, if you've ever seen the film Dead Poet's Society, you'll know that words and ideas can change the world. If you've ever seen or heard of Hamilton, you'll know that words and ideas can change the world, especially if you're the kind of person that's up for writing 51 essays. So if you're coming to me and asking, "Rita, how can I improve the world?" I'm going to tell you to get writing. It can be a book that you'll ensure never sees the light of day, or a blog or even a diary. Write down your thoughts, your feelings, your hopes, your dreams. You'll probably never feel like you're actually improving the world, but I can honestly say to you that you are. Write those words and ideas down, because you never know what they may bring.

Monday, 11 July 2016

BLOG TOUR: Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan - REVIEW + VIDEO

Today I am the first stop on the Eden Summer blog tour, which is a brilliant little book by Liz Flanagan which is now on the shelves of your local bookstore just waiting to be picked up... Looking for an excuse to break your book buying ban? I have one here for you. Read on for my review- which surprised me with how easy it was to write- and a little video from the author herself.


“My mind will not accept the possibility that Eden could be dead, now or ever. Stopped. The end. Nothing. No. My best friend is too alive. Too everything. She can’t just disappear. What happens to all her Eden-ness? What the hell happens to me, without her?”

It starts like any other day for Jess – get up, plaster on black eyeliner, cover up her tattoos and head to school. But it isn’t any other day: Eden has gone missing. And Jess knows she has to do everything in her power to try to find her best friend before the unthinkable happens. So Jess starts to retrace the steps of the summer they’ve just spent together. And she starts to notice things she didn’t notice before.... She starts to question what she thought Eden’s summer had been...
Set in the beautifully described stunning countryside of West Yorkshire, this is a tense and thrilling journey through friendship, loss, betrayal and self discovery. 
4.5 Stars

Saturday, 9 July 2016

DEBATE: "Illegal Abortion Laws Only Serve to Punish Women"

Under the 1967 Abortion Act, abortion is legal in the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks of gestation, with exceptions made in times of grave necessity. This act brought an end to the years of back-alley abortions many women had suffered in the United Kingdom, as they attempted to reclaim control over their own bodies with poisons and wire coat hangers that left them irreparably damaged. Due to the act, in 2014 184,571* women were able to access safe abortions, this being the total number of abortions in England and Wales.

This image of reform and social growth, however, is not true for the rest of the world, or to be more specific, for all of the UK. The Abortion Act exempts Northern Ireland, so that instead it continues to be punishable with a life sentence under section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act. In 2014/2015, there were only 16 abortions in Northern Ireland, which provides an explicit idea of just how restrictive the law is.
"They promise to protect the rights of the unborn child, to give a voice to the voiceless, and in the process they take the rights and voices of women everywhere instead."
Laws like this one are employed under the guise of being pro-life. They promise to protect the rights of the unborn child, to give a voice to the voiceless, and in the process they take the rights and voices of women everywhere instead; a fair trade, some may argue. I definitively don’t. The truth is that these laws aren’t about protecting life, but instead a cruel and completely legal form of retribution. The life sentence may be lawful, but the undue suffering that women are subjected to by the exact same laws is unarguably extrajudicial.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

4 Badass Women to Include in Your Next American History Essay

1. Abigail Adams, 1744-1818

The second First Lady of the United States from 1797 to 1801,  Adams was educated by her mother, and so by the time she married John Adams in 1764 she was an intelligent young woman with progressive views for her age. This would go on to have a profound impact on her husband, and as such the United States themselves, as their in-depth correspondence showed him to continually seek her advice and discussion on political matters. As a result of her proactive participation and advocacy, she took a stance for Women's Rights and the Abolition of Slavery, writing down her beliefs that married women should be granted property rights and increased opportunities, as well as denouncing slavery as evil and violative of the American principles of 'Freedom.' In total there are 1200 letters between John Adams and Abigail, and they depict a woman ahead of her time both intellectually and emotionally, who shaped her country with her passionate beliefs and political stances. If you want to write about an extraordinary woman breaching expectations, Abigail Adams is a serious contender.

2. Sacagawea, 1788-1812

Despite a variety of differences of opinion as to firstly, the nature of her name, and secondly, the story of her death, Sacagawea has undoubtedly been adopted as a symbolic figure for American women due to her essential participation in the Lewis and Clark expedition. Born into the Agaidika tribe she was, during a battle, captured and taken to a Hidatsa village where she later became one of the two wives of French-Canadian fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau. What Sacagawea is famed for, however, is when in 1804 at six months pregnant she became one of the translators for Lewis and Clark as they explored the 'Louisiana Purchase'. Several events defined her as a key member of the expedition: upon the capsizing of the boat they were in, Sacagawea was able to save many of their essential supplies, with Lewis and Clark showing their gratitude by making her the namesake of part of the river; her understanding of both Hidatsa and Shoshone enabled communication and trading between various groups and the expedition, particularly as Sacagawea's presence often created a more trustworthy atmosphere, and finally her knowledge of the environment allowed her to both guide and advise the group. All this was done with her baby son; an incredible feat for which she received no compensation, unlike her husband. Sacagawea really was a remarkable woman who would do great justice to any history essay.

3. Arabella Mansfield, 1846-1911

Mansfield is known for being the first woman in America to become a lawyer, after being admitted to the Iowa bar in 1869. Earlier, she had graduated as valedictorian from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1865, and went onto become a teacher of History, English and Political Sciences at Simpson College. However after a year, she returned to her home town to marry John Mansfield, a decision which would turn out to be beneficial as John encouraged her interest for law, and so together they studied for the bar exam. During this period, Mansfield studied under her brother in his law office, as he had already passed the bar exam, although it is interesting to note that Arabella and her brother had originally graduated in the same class, the former with higher honours. When 1869 came, Mansfield took the bar exam, achieving such distinguished scores that despite the bar being exclusive to males over 21, she was admitted after challenging the law in court, which ruled in her favour. If you're looking for a woman unwilling to be limited by her gender, Arabella Mansfield is a very notable candidate.

4. Bessie Coleman, 1892-1926

Everyone's heard of Amelia Earhart, but I have another first for you: Coleman was not only the first African American female pilot, but also the first female pilot of Native American descent to hold a license. In an era where women of minority descent were all too frequently ignored in history- the women's right movement in the 1920s being particularly problematic- Coleman's story is pivotal. only having enough savings to complete a term of university, Coleman was a manicurist in Chicago, but was fascinated by the stories of pilots coming home from World War One. However, as an African American woman, no place in America would teach Coleman, so instead with funding from the Chicago Defender and Jesse Binga she travelled to Paris to go after her dream. There she learned the trade in a Nieuport Type 82 Biplane and after arriving in 1920, by June 15th 1921 she had become the first of her gender and ethnicity to have an possess an aviation licence. By September 1921, she was back in New York where she continued to train build a repertoire as an accomplished stunt pilot. What Coleman really wanted was to set up a flying school for young African Americans, and all her activities were dedicated to this cause until her death when flying a plane in Florida in 1926, meaning she never got to fulfil her plan to give others the opportunity she had never been given. Despite this, Coleman's legacy continues today, and her prodigious story sure is one worthy of being told.

Who is your favourite woman in American History? Tell me in the comments below!

Monday, 4 July 2016

If I Should Have A Daughter

A favourite poet of mine is Sarah Kay, who wrote the beautiful piece IF I SHOULD HAVE A DAUGHTER. I remember watching the clip of her speaking the poem, and falling completely in love with the the way she connects the most everyday things like rain boots, solar systems and chocolate into the life lessons every parent wishes their child to know. You can find her beautiful writing here, but I've also written my own piece inspired by Kay's If I Should Have A Daughter which you can read right here.

If I should have a daughter, her first word will be her own name, and she will sing its melody so many times that when others try to drown it out she will simply create harmonies. That way she will know no one can take it away from her. And she will play with the looping and curling letters that she was gifted with, dreaming and crafting and slipping and falling, so that she learns that words are what you make them but what you make can easily hurt you too.

Instead of wrapping her in bubble wrap, she will learn to pop it, because the things meant to keep us safe are sometimes the things that harm us the most, and this daughter of mine will not trip over herself on the way forward. No, she will learn that the stars are her climbing frame, the moon is her friend and the sun her torch light, but she has to want their help first. She will clamber through the solar systems and slide on Saturn's rings so she can truly say the universe is her playground. Her eyes will sting from the stardust caked on her hands, her hair will be tangled into galaxies and she will imagine that perhaps she is the universe, and she herself is the playground she must explore.

And there will be times when this daughter of mine finds her tongue cuts deep, when she trips others in her haste to stand upright. And there will be times when that universe she loves knocks the air right out of her, and things won't look so beautiful anymore. If there is one thing I can promise her, is that I will be the first one to not tell, but to show her that she can make this universe a little more beautiful, if only she offers a hand to those on the ground and an umbrella to the world when the rain starts to fall.

If she tells me she wants to fly, I will make her a cape, but first she must know that the only way to soar through the air is with a heart as light as a feather. And maybe if she takes after her Grandfather and falls for the intricacies of physics, she will tell me "Mama, if you're talking about weight, a feather will be equal to any other object on earth." and I will laugh and hug her closer. But because she will take after her mother and never be satisfied, she will ask exactly what I mean, and I will give her flowers to hand out on the streets or let her smile at everyone she sees. And at the end of the day when she puts on her cape I'll ask her, "Sweetheart, don't you feel closer to flying now?" If she takes after her Grandmother, she'll be asked to bottle up her smile and allow the world to keep something so precious. If she takes after her aunt, she'll have a heart lighter than a feather any day.

As much as I hate it, the days will come when I question what world I'm leaving her. The poetry caught in her eyelashes and the castles she could bring down with her determined glare will be the reason I'll fight to set the world alight in the hope something better can be born from the ashes. I will see her in everyone around me, and I'll fight for them, too. She will ask me why I hate all these wars, and I will answer that we fight enough of them everyday. She will ask why the sad people we see on the news make me upset, and I tell her that it's because in someway we are those sad people too. She will ask me what she can do to make it better, and I'll tell her that she should fight and rage and never just accept what everyone else tells her. And then I'll regret it when she uses those words against me in an argument.

If I should have a daughter, and I fail to teach her everything I've said, I hope that she grows up to know one thing. That she is loved. And I ask one thing; that she shares that love in her smile, in her words and in her actions, every single day.

Saturday, 2 July 2016


Exams are over, and the blogging is kicking off once more, beginning with this fabulous interview I have for you all about FLY Festival: the only major literary festival aimed at teenagers who don't read. Sounds kind of like an oxymoron right? I promise it's anything but that! Read on to find out more:

Aimed at teenagers from 14 to 18 who don't read, FLY Festival is very much one of a kind. FLY wants to get more teenagers involved in reading, which admittedly can be a hard feat, as Antoinette Moses told me. "That’s not an easy thing to do. How do you get non-readers to come to a festival all about reading? They won’t go out of their way to buy tickets. With young children, their parents will buy tickets for them and organise for them to go, and adults have the passion and initiative to buy tickets themselves. But our audience won’t do that." Inevitably, that is one of FLY festival's greatest challenges: attracting an audience who traditionally would want to run in the other direction. Instead, they choose other methods to entice interest in the festival and in reading itself. Moses explains that one of the ways they attract their target audience is through schools. "The teenagers go with their teachers and suddenly they realise, ‘my goodness, this reading business is actually fun’. That’s why we’re unique."

Once the audience is present, FLY Festival has very clear aims in mind, along with the resources to do so. They are a university too and so put on workshops and get students actively involved, hosting 40 workshops this year. Not only do they hope to inspire young people to read by presenting them with talks, readings and the best authors in YA, but also by providing hands on experience in the form of poetry slams. "We think that FLY can change lives," says Moses, "since it can enable students who don’t read books to actually start reading. That changes lives. That changes lives completely. People reading for pleasure is something Natalie and I come back to again and again; it is the most important factor in a young person’s life, more important than their socio-economic status and the world they grow up in. Encouraging reading for pleasure can change literacy levels more than anything else." 

Creating FLY Festival also requires a serious amount of work, with preparations beginning a year in advance and the FLY dates booked for the next five years. "Next year is the 10th-14th July," says Moses. She depicts a gorgeous image of what creating a festival is like, comparing it to a dream event which you explore with a series of questions. "What kind of festival would I like to go to? Who would I like to hear? What if we could run a competition where students write their own stories? What if we ran such and such a workshop? It all starts with a lot of ‘what if?’ questions, just like storytelling. Storytellers always use ‘what if?’, and running a festival is the same. So, it starts with a dream, and then we have to raise the money to make it happen. Then when it all comes together, you have the money, you have the ideas, you have the authors, you have the space, and then you put the show on and we market it."

Of course, organising a festival aimed at teenagers means you also have a lot of involvement in the current issues faced in YA literature. Particularly I was interested in how it has evolved or is evolving, and Moses brought up the very relevant point of how literature treats gender.  "I think it’s very important that we don’t try and segregate gender too much, but marketing sometimes makes that hard when you have books covered in pink butterflies that come with free friendship bands – you’re not going to get a tough 15-year-old boy thinking ‘oh, that’s what I really want to walk around with’ when you have other books that’s black and gritty and covered in grime." It's effectively an issue which is too complex to summarise in an interview, but which is becoming more and more common. "I think that what’s important in a time where people are now more aware of the problematic interpretations of gender binaries, where we now realise that many boys want to show their sensitive sides and girls want to prove themselves as tough, there shouldn’t be this differentiation. Not every girl is a little princess. I think publishers are beginning to realise that," adds Moses, and she names Holly Bourne as an author who is able to successfully target some of these problems in her novels.
"She appeals to a large number of female readers and is very much about feminism, but she’s also aware that when it comes to mental health issues, suicide is responsible for more deaths in young men than anybody else. It’ll be interesting to see if she ever explores that in her work."

FLY is undeniably the exact kind of festival we need today; one with passionate people like Antoinette Moses behind it, and one which directly incites a love for reading in young people. In the future, FLY hopes to maintain it's current format, and continue providing literary opportunities that many young adults would never think of reaching out to them themselves. Moses concludes,  "Being the producer of this festival and being able to meet all of my favourite authors is such a joy and a privilege. I just feel very lucky to be doing it. It’s so exciting to just see this buzz at the festival and to see how students react to these voices. It really is a privilege being able to do this. It’s something very special." If there is one festival you support or visit, FLY should be it.

Thank you to Antoinette Moses for answering my questions, and to Nathaniel and Bobbie for organising the whole interview. You can find out more about FLY festival on their website, here.

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