Books and Health #YAShot Blog Tour

Today’s post is part of the blogtour for YA Shot which is a one-day Young Adult and Middle Grade festival taking place in Uxbridge on 28th October 2015.

With thanks to the wonderful Alexia Casale for letting me take part.

Books and Employability

As an Occupational Therapist (and previously a university lecturer) I was interested in looking at how bookish pursuits linked to future employability. I’ve since expanded the post slightly to not only consider how books link to health and social care careers, but also to how books impact on our health in general. I’m a writer and voracious reader so I should note my “potential” bias in raving abut how wonderful being involved with books is.

In Monday’s blog tour post by Rachel she talked about ‘doing books’ as a living. Of course, not all book lovers want to work with books, but, that doesn’t mean that we have to, or should leave books behind.

My job as an occupational therapist puts me into regular contact with people, and people come with their own stories. Being able to empathise (not sympathise) with someone else is a hugely important skill for health and social care professionals (doctors, social workers, physiotherapists, etc, etc) to develop.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Healthcare as a whole is revisiting Humanisation as a model for practice. It is acknowledged that sometimes viewing someone through a medical lens can make it easy to forget the person behind the body parts. In Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution Roman Krznaric shows how we can develop empathy through engagement with stories, and check out this article about learning about slavery through fiction.

I often encouraged students to read fiction and use stories to make connections to theories they were learning, and also to explore the meaning of disability and diversity. I also encouraged creative expression through writing and students who engaged in these pursuits really enhanced their skills in reflective practice which is essential (in my view) for their future learning and development in practice.

Medical Humanities is an emerging field of study – one which the scientific booky people amongst you might like to contribute in the future.

Healthcare subjects are degree level qualifications. Rachel mentioned transferable skills in her blog post. Reading could help you develop your comprehension and writing skills (and hopefully increase your knowledge of spelling and grammar), blogging about books can help you develop critical thinking skills and your ability to express yourself verbally. Taking part in drama can give you the confidence when doing presentations or speaking out in a ward round.

Books can make you happy (even when you’re sobbing at them)

And how can reading help you look after your own health and wellbeing? Again, as an occupational therapist, I have a particular view that if reading is a meaningful occupation for you then inherently taking part in it will be health sustaining. What makes it meaningful may vary between individuals, reading may be a form of relaxation, a way to work through emotions, a way to learn or it may take you into a state of occupational flow where time flies by without you noticing it. Talking about books might be a good way for someone to begin being able to connect with other people too. For me personally I have used reading in times of anxiety to take me out of living in the past or worrying about the future to being in that story. In fact, my PhD is exploring why writers are writers, and I suspect reading will come into that somewhere!

This article discusses research by neuroscientists that show that reading can enhance cognition, memory and compassion as well as reducing stress and helping sleep

And supposedly Harry Potter readers are ‘better humans’ As a ginormous Harry Potter fan and member of the The Harry Potter Alliance – my bias may be showing again. But I’ve seen the HPA use the themes from Harry’s story to connect to real life and inspire social action.

Science and art are not mutually exclusive subjects so even if you want to do maths as a living still read – it’ll make all the numbers come alive.

If you have any comments or questions I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime:


Sun Catcher series – Character Interview – Maia – #countdownya

A couple of days ago I shared my reviews of Sun Catcher and Storm Chaser and now here’s an interview with 13 year old Maia – the series protagonist (Sheila Rance the author is here whispering from the silk too).

From the back of Sun Catcher

Maia dreams of being a Story Teller, or a Weaver, like her father, Tareth, but when the Watcher names her Sun Catcher, she must face a destiny that Tareth has kept hidden from her. For Maia is more powerful than she knows, and she is about to discover that though he sun’s fire may be dangerous… So is she.


Maia, in your world, the Watcher prophesies people to a number of roles, Sun Catcher, Storm Chaser, and so on. If you could go back to your Naming Day, what role would you want the Watcher to give you, and why?

I always wanted to fly an eagle like Tareth, the Warrior Weaver, so I hoped the Watcher would name me Sky Warrior or Eagle Hunter.


Razek and Kodo compete for your attention – what actions of theirs makes them worthy of it?


I’ve known Razek for as long as I can remember. We argue a lot and because he’s the Weed Master he always thinks he’s right. He’s not. And he did a terrible thing so I thought I’d never forgive him. He said I was the storm he chased. He risked losing everything when he followed me into the Vast because he thought I would be killed. Even when I said I hated him he tried to save me. It’s sometimes hard to be friends with Razek but I am.


Kodo is a loyal friend. He took the blame and kept Magnus, the eagle, safe from Ootey’s revenge when I broke the taboo and went to the lizard scrape to steal a baby lizard and Magnus killed a hatchling. And then he saved Tareth’s life twice, once from drowning and then from being discovered by the Wulf Kin. He tried to rescue me when he thought I was in mortal danger in Khandar.


Both of them are so different but both of them risked their lives for me. I don’t deserve such loyalty and friendship.


What is the most disturbing thing the silk has ever whispered to you?

It showed me the death of my sisters.


Being flame haired can draw negative attention to you in my culture too – what other things singles you out among the cliff dwellers?

Being different. Wanting different things. Not being afraid of the dark or scared of the lizards. Having a secret. Wanting to run free and not listen to the Cave Women when they told me what I should do. Having flame hair made it worse. I was often in trouble. How strange that red hair is considered bad in your culture too. Is your tribe very superstitious too?


Who do you consider to be more like family? Elin, Caspia and Xania or Tareth, Yanna and Zena? 

Tareth. I thought I was his child and even though it wasn’t true he will always be my father. He is kind, wise, fierce and tried to keep me safe. I wish I’d known my sister Xania for longer. She was a warrior. I’d like to be strong like her.


What do you like about Khandar?

The mountains where the Eagle Hunters live.


Animals play important roles in your world, which animal is most important to you? 

I love eagles. And I was given a beautiful horse called Fionn. But if I have to choose only one animal it would be Nefrar, the hunting cat, even though really he’s Yanna’s cheetah. He adopted me. Many of the Warrior Women have hunting cats. If Nefrar finds a mate I hope Yanna will give me one of the kits.


It is said the destiny of a Sun Catcher is to be blinded, what three things would you miss seeing most of all?

Everything. Too many things to count.

The flight of an eagle, Kodo riding his red-crested lizard, sunlight flung like a golden net across the sun-deeps, Tareth’s smile, Nefrar running free, a moon-moth dance, the hand-fast fires, stars and storm clouds.

I won’t think about a Sun Catcher’s fate. Perhaps I can change it.


The final book of the trilogy Story Singer is released on 7th May, if you haven’t read the first two books you’ve just got time. 


Sun Catcher and Storm Chaser by Sheila Rance – Book Reviews #CountdownYA

I was lucky enough to receive copies of Sun Catcher and Storm Chaser, the first two books in Sheila Rance’s Sun Catcher trilogy in preparation for today’s Countdown to 7th May post (Thanks to Jim Dean @Yayeahyeah for organising the blog tour and inviting me to join in).

Later on I’ll share with you an interview with Maia the books’ protagonist, but first, to whet your appetite for the last book in the trilogy, here are my thoughts on the first two books.

Sun Catcher cover Storm Chaser Cover

Firstly let’s talk about the covers (Images from Goodreads), if these don’t draw you in then I’d be pretty surprised. Vivid Colours, Fantasy Clothing, Raging Sun and Surging Storms as a backdrop. “Flame-Headed Witch or Long Lost Princess?” “Silk Tells Stories. It Sings of Secrets Long Forgotten. It Sings of Fire.” “Catching the Sun Was Not Enough…” “Silk Whispers. Clouds Gather. A Storm is Coming.” “Game of Thrones for a Younger Audience”

Like Game of Thrones this fantasy (or magical reality as Sheila terms it) story looks at different groups of people but really our focus is on Maia. We learn that Maia and her father Tareth were shipwrecked and although they were saved by and live among the Cliff-Dwellers Maia feels and looks an outcast. In Sun Catcher she begins to find out the truth of her heritage and her destiny. On her naming day the Watcher names her Sun Catcher and so begins her journey to discover who she is expected to be, and who she wants to be. This struggle to forge an identity is shared by the other teen characters in the books. What role you play in society is a common theme in Young Adult literature but with the unusual roles in this world it gives more scope to play with the underlying feelings about responsibility, meaning and so on.

At the beginning of the books, before the story starts, is a page dedicated to the main players in the stories. Here Kodo, the lizard boy and Razek the weed master and storm chaser are introduced. Two boys that fight for Maia’s attention. I wouldn’t call this a love triangle though – it’s far more complex than that and I’m really interested to see how these relationships develop in the final book.

I love the importance of animals to the story, the silk moths, lizards, eagles, horses, bees and a cheetah all play integral parts in the plot, showing how humans can rely on animals. They become more than creatures and are true characters in the books. The silk moths and the silk weaved from them produce much of the magic – silk sings and whispers leading characters astray and sharing information with them (but is it false or truth). I’d love to see how these scenes are portrayed in a filmed adaptation.

At the back of the books we get an insight into the research Sheila did into the Bronze Age that inspired the story, and you can see how that influenced but hasn’t limited the story.

The books are beautifully illustrated throughout by Geoff Taylor – I particularly love the one from Storm Chaser where Kodo is cradling Zena’s (Maia’s young sidekick) tattooed head.

The young adult characters work with the older characters and it is pleasant to see a mutual respect between them, something that I think we can learn from.

Story Singer Cover

Overall I really enjoyed the books and am looking forward to reading the concluding part in Story Singer on 7th May. I’m also looking forward to sharing my interview with Maia with you later which will pick up on some of themes mentioned above.

Countdown to 7th May Banner Header designed by Daphne @WingedReviews


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