Wednesday 30 June 2010

Jessica's column - In my good books...

It’s 3am and I’ve just noticed the time. Argh! I determinedly fold down the page of my book and try to stop feeling guilty. ‘It’s only 3am, Jessica, I’m sure you won’t be tired tomorrow...’ yeah right. This is the problem with me and books. I read them like I eat packets of biscuits. Each chapter is another sweet chewy circle of joy and I don’t stop consuming until they’re all gone. I sometimes enjoy reading a little fiction before bed, as many do, to give some time for the brain to relax and unwind. I’ll pick a book from my shelves, wriggle under the duvet and start to read… and don’t stop. Oh look, 4 hours have slipped by!

Thankfully I don’t own any of my very favourite books, or these late night reading sessions might occur more frequently. My bookcase is crammed with retired favourites: colourful paperbacks (Jacqueline Wilson was my primary school author of choice), holiday reads and other assorted teen fiction. The school library is the real residence of all my top favourites. To me, a long-awaited book becomes more tempting when it’s wrapped in protective plastic and has a paper record thingy stuck in the front - and it’s free you know! As a lower school student I spent many a lunchtime there with friends, but now I swan in and stagger out again a short while later, somewhat less stylishly, with a healthy stack of books. The librarians are always friendly and helpful, and there’s a book club for all years on Tuesdays where we often read book award nominees.

For years I was slightly put off mainstream books with loads of awards, but then I realised that these books won because they really are fantastic! Take “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness, as an example. It won the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the Guardian Award, as well as being shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. I remained sceptical, despite numerous members of the aforementioned book group singing its praises. It was only when I actually got round to checking it out (of the library) did I see what the fuss was about. Patrick Ness’ whole “Chaos Walking” series so far is imaginative and thought-provoking. The third book came out this May. Another incredible trilogy that I’m excited for the conclusion of is “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. This is action-packed and fascinating fiction at its best. It’s just a shame I have to wait for August 2010!

I love books, especially those that allow me to escape into another world, like lovely fat fantasy series such as “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld’s “Uglies”, “Pretties”, “Specials” and “Extras” - and the one with “Mortal Engines” by Philip Reeve, all set in some enthralling but troubled alternate world. I’m not too picky; I enjoyed the “Twilight” saga by Stephenie Meyer too! Maybe if you’re looking to buy a present for a literary teen I’ve been of some help...

When my family are on holiday or a long car journey, I have become quite the expert at stealthily peering over my younger brother’s shoulder to borrow a bit of his entertainment should I finish my own. There’s nothing wrong with reading below your age every now and again. After all, Ben has reasonable taste; Frank Cottrell Boyce for the win! At the other end of the spectrum is the kind of literature we read in English, like “The Great Gatsby.” Fun too, I guess, apart from the fact we have to read into all the deep meaning and dissect it to death.

Learning to read as a young child is like being given the key to the Tardis. You can go anywhere and do anything. The possibilities just keep on multiplying as you progress from big picture books read by Mum, to ingenious stories and adventures. Just keep turning those pages.

Jessica is a regular columnist for All Things Local and currently a sixth form student at Ecclesbourne School, Duffield.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Fashion with Shona Harding from Pearls & Scarlett

Summer has finally arrived and at this time of year we are always reminded of re-growth and nature’s way of renewing everything around us. So why not use fashion in the same way, recycle from nature and find new ways to shop ethically. Budget shops are big culprits of offering cheap goods in a constant flow of ever-changing styles but there is a big trend towards fashion with better morals. The business I am in supports this and even the high street giants are starting to realise that customers want fashion with a conscience. So how do we shop safe in the knowledge our fashion is not harming the environment around us?

Look out for eco fashion websites – they are great for sourcing their products direct from the craftsmen that make them, ensuring they receive the bulk of the profit from items sold. is one that offers a great range of clothing, accessories and homewares which fall within the criteria whilst not compromising on quality and look. is also a great site which offers vegan, sustainable, fair trade and recycled fashion.

High Street – although they are generally lacking in nearly every area of ethical fashion some are trying to change the way it sources its suppliers. Next, M&S and Monsoon are to name but a few, but the ranges in store are limited and cost more. They are also starting to use organic cotton more in their products which is always a great step towards a more natural product. It’s also great for babies whose skin reacts badly to chemical interference.

Eco Shopping – there are a great many independents around that use a range of local artisans who produce items from recyclable products. These include drinks cans being made into handbags and newspaper pulp used to make handmade jewellery. This style of fashion is always going to appeal to one section of the fashion market as not everyone wants to buy into these kinds of fashion pieces – but it’s becoming an increasing trend for those who wish to ease their own conscience whilst not compromising on their love of fashion and shopping.

Dress agencies, hiring and charity shops all offer a way of recycling your clothes whilst buying new items to add to your wardrobe.

See you in a couple of months, Shona xx