Friday, 24 September 2021

Ugly Girl by Mary E Twomey

 Ugly Girl is U in my A-Z of Fiction Titles challenge.

Having read a few of Mary E Twomey's books before, and indeed having just finished reading Taste, I knew I would get engrossed by this book almost immediately, so took a little while (maybe a week, lol) before delving in and starting this series.

Rosie is an ordinary girl.  She lived with her Aunt after her parents died in a car crash when she was small, and her best friend Judah was the only person to look past her spots, scars and hunched back.  Living the best life she can, she goes to college by day and enjoys being a pool shark in the evening.
One evening, however, Rosie loses her beloved necklace, and all of a sudden her world begins to change.  No longer is she ugly and ignored, but she gets kidnapped and taken far away.

The blurb says:

When a grizzled stranger crashes into her life and lifts the concealment that has marred her face since childhood, Rosie Avalon leaves everything she knows behind. Pulled into a realm teeming with magical creatures, Rosie must navigate this new, broken world while avoiding capture by the evil queen, who knows there’s more to Rosie than meets the eye.

Bastien is an Untouchable, feared and shunned by all but a handful of elite warriors. His realm has been ravaged by the evil queen’s reign, but he will stop at nothing to save the land he loves, even if it means pushing Rosie past her breaking point.

Thrust into a quest that threatens to destroy her family, Rosie’s path is clear: she must sacrifice all she holds dear to save a world on the brink of collapse, and hope she doesn’t lose herself along the way.

This 14 book series is split into three parts Books 1-7, 8-11, and 12-14, and it is possible to read one part and take a break before reading the next, however, I wouldn't suggest starting midway through (eg at book 8) without having read the earlier books.

These books are set in between Common (ie Earth) and Avalon (another dimension, where there is magic and magical creatures).  Rosie learns that, though her Aunt is her Aunt, her parents are not dead, but live in Avalon, and her mother is the evil queen, Morgan Le Fae.  There is romance, intrigue, battle, a fair bit of feminism too.  Having read Taste immediately before, some of the magical powers I have seen before, but it's to a lesser or greater degree and doesn't really impact the story.

I did really like these books - you'd be unsurprised to know that I read all 14 straight off, without a break, then had to take a break afterwards as I allowed time for me to grieve leaving their world and reconnecting with my own.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

And another month goes by...

So, I'm still seeing my PT twice a week.  My weight was still going up, and I almost hit 100kilos, which I've never been before.  But, I am still decreasing my size, and have even dropped a bra size when I got measured recently.

As sexy as I look in a bra and a pair of shorts (not!), I am pleased that even *I* can see that my back-fat is going, and I now have a waist again.

Both my girls are now in school, as DD2 recently started year 7.  She does enjoy it, but is very tired.  Having gone from needing 10-12 hours sleep a night, to having to leave the house at 7.30am, return near 5, then rush straight to dance lessons and often doesn't get home aain until 9.30 or 10pm, is a bit of a shock for her.

As schools have gone back, I'm tutoring again now.  My days have changed this year, so I work Tuesday mornings, Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons.  I don't have much free time, though, as I'm still involved with Home Education locally, nationally and politically.  (Ok, I don't know if 'politically' makes any sense in that sentence, but the rhythm made me feel like it needed a third thing there.)

I am trying to read too, but that has slowed somewhat.  As I don't need to wait at dance in the evenings anymore, I don't have as much time to read.  Also, in the few gaps I've had during the day, I have had a bit of a TV binge, watching non-kids TV during the day! Very exciting.  I have recently watched Sex Eduction, Love on the Spectrum, Motherland, and I was getting into Making a Murderer, until my husband joined me one day, and now I'm 'not allowed' to watch it without him.  Yet, since then, we haven't watched it together at all, so if he's not careful I'm going to continue watching it and just not tell him, lol.

And yes, I am aware that I haven't caught up with the book reviews I said I would write a month ago.  Despite everything I've written here (and this feels like a lot to me), I've even more things going on.

DD1 has been having mini absence seizures/blackouts for a while, though she didn't tell me that they had become frequent until last October.  I told her to keep a diary in case it was related to what she had been eating or time of the month or anything like that, and we made an appointment to see the GP.  Fast forward to February, and we were referred to hospital to see a neurologist and to have an EEG.  As part of this, they gave DD1 a general health check and discovered she had a heart murmur.  Not a big surprise or concern as my husband had one when he was little, but they referred us for an ECG.  And another.  And an echo.  And a heart consultant who told use they would be bringing in the big-guns from a nearby city to look at her heart, because she has a hole in her heart.  As you can imagine, this was a bit of a shock, given she was 13yo at the time, fit as a fiddle, loads of dance, and zero symptoms (breathlessness, fatigue, palpatations or enlargement of the heart).

Anyway, we saw the big-gun heart consultant, who did another ECG and echo (which incidentally, is really interesting, as the computor automatically colours the blood blue and red depending on whether the blood has been oxygenised or not).  She confirmed that the hole in the heart is nothing to do with the mini blackouts DD1 had been having, and because the EEG was clear, they (the hospital) are not following that up at the moment.  However, DD1 does not have a hole in her heart - she has two plus a leaky valve! (It's a partial AVSD for anyone who wants to google it.) Due to where the holes are located, they cannot go up the leg/groin to close it, but she will need open heart surgery.  But, it isn't urgent, because she has no other symptoms, so don't worry about it too much.  It's a fairly straightforward procedure, etc etc, and just has to be done before she becomes an adult, as if left unfixed, it could cause massive problems when she's in her 20s and 30s.

Then over the summer we had a virtual consulatation with a surgeon, who said they expected surgery to be in October!  DD1 would have to be in hospital for at least a week, at least a month off school, at least 3 months off dancing.  All of a sudden this became very real!  Due to dance festivals finally starting up again (and the enxt one being in October) we have asked for the surgery to be postponed until the summer term, but we will follow the guidance of the consultant.  Meanwhile, DD1 has had even more hospital appointments, and had to wear a 24hr heart monitor, and been asked to participate in research before/after surgery, so my suspician is that it will be sooner, rather than later.

Oh, and we have got a second dog, Luna.

Monday, 23 August 2021

A-Z Challenge 2021 Fiction Authors

So here is my new A-Z Challenge by authors, and this time I won't be filling in the letters that I'm missing.

A - Meadowlark by Melanie Abrams

B - Brainrush by Richard Bard

C - Exodus by Andreas Christensen

D - Thicker Than Blood by C J Darlington

E - When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason

F - The Singapore Grip by T G Farrell

G - The American Gods Quartet by Neil Gaiman

H - The Last Safe Place by Ninie Hammon

I - The Messiah Conspiracy by Ian C P Irvine

J - Hidden by Megg Jensen

K - Earth - Last Santuary by Christian Kallias

L - Heaven by Mur Lafferty

M - The Wedding List by Autumn MacArthur

N - A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

O - Daygo's Fury by John F O'Sullivan

P - Mr Rook by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

R - Where the Shadows Lie by Michael Ridpath

S - The Phoenix Conspiracy by Richard L Sanders

T - Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

V - The Time Traveller's Almanac by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer

W - Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb

Y - To Fear the Dawn by Sean Young

Z - The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafron

(Note: If it turns out that some of these listed either are non-fiction or I have previously read them and forgot whilst making this list, I will change them for books I haven't yet read.)

Where has the time gone???

I can't believe it's nearly a month since I last posted anything on this blog!  I've got lots to say, but want to post it all separately, so I'll give a quick overview now, and hopefully will find some time in the not-to-distant future to actually write properly.

This past month, it was my 16th wedding anniversary, (did I tell you in July that my hair is no longer purple?  It's red now), I went to Back To the 80s & 90s Festival by myself and had a fab time, I finished reading all the books on my A-Z Challenge list, plus the rest of the Ugly Girl series, I went to London twice with the family to see 2 different shows, I've started going out with friends again in an evening, DD2 had her 11th birthday yesterday, and today was her first day of Summer School (transition week) before starting secondary in September.  I am officially not home educating any more!  I have some new tutees and some old ones lined up for me to start tutoring again.  I am still involved in HE politics, despite it being the summer holidays.  And I'm still seeing my PT.  I know I didn't update you guys with my last set of progress photos (even I can see a difference now compared to how I looked when I started!), but I'm due to take my next set this coming weekend.  I'll also be taking new measurements, and will have a look to see if I am finally starting to lose weight.  Since I started with her in April, I have only put on weight, so it will be good to see if that finally starts to change!  And, as I finished my A-Z of fiction titles I need to set myself a new challenge (based on the books I already have on my kindle that I haven't read yet).  As, on my kindle, I can only sort by Recent, Title or Author, I suppose I'm going to go back to Fiction Authors.  Unlike last time, however, I will not be buying any books to fill-in the letters I'm missing.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Strengthening Home Education - Part 5

If you haven't already read it, please click HERE to see Part 1 of my read-through. 
And HERE is the original report. 

"100. In this chapter we consider outcomes, assessments and exams for children receiving EHE. During the inquiry, we heard about a lack of robust data on the outcomes for them as a group"

Same old refrain (and this is a clickable link, if you haven't watched it or got the message yet): RESEARCH EXISTS! 

"The difficulties faced by private exam candidates during the covid-19 pandemic shone a light on the pre-existing inequity they face in accessing public examinations." 

This was a real and impactful problem that was faced by home educators.  And as much as I cannot say research exists specifically about this, I can say that research is ongoing in this area!! And if you are, or know, a home educator who was impacted by exam cancellations due to covid, please encourage them to take part by clicking HERE.

What do we know about outcomes?

The first section is about the lack of data, especially longitudinal research, about home education.  This is to be expected, because it's not really been as popular as home education is now.  With the internet, anything can be learned anywhere - you are not restricted to learning only what your local library has in stock, nor restricted to old skool mailing lists for getting in touch with other home educators.  As such, most home education research of this type is US-based.  If you follow my FB page (and if you don't, why not?? it's HERE) you will see that I do share various research projects.  Not all of them are applicable to everyone, but if you can do a short interview, or a series of interviews, in order to create the data that the government is demanding, doing it with an impartial researcher is better than selling your soul to the LA.

"106. Little is known about the educational or other outcomes for the EHE cohort. Despite this, there was resistance to the idea of applying the kinds of standardised assessment used in schools to EHE."

Well, duh! If people are choosing to educate their children otherwise than at school, why would they want to force their child through all the same hoops as schooled children?  The beauty of home education is the freedom and flexibility.  Home education is not, and should not, be simply a recreation of school-at-home - and I think that's true even if you do decide to purchase a school-at-home style curriculum or package. 

"All EHE children should have the opportunity to take GCSEs, A-Levels and vocational exams as appropriate."

Yes as appropriate or desired!  Have access to, not that they should be compulsory.

 The next section is all about exams, specifically the massive impact that Covid has been.  A part from an erroneous "with a register in place it [would solve the world's problems]", this section is a good summary of various issues faced by home educators.

"124. The Government must place a duty on every local authority to ensure that homeeducated children and young people have fair access to centres where they can sit accredited public examinations, with the Government meeting the entry costs for those exams. The Department for Education must also work to establish the appropriate level of entitlement, to which examinations the entitlement will apply, and the additional funding the Department will commit to support this."


Now we are on to the final section in the main body of the document... 

Conclusions and Recommendations

  • They want a more specific definition of aa 'suitable' education.
  • They want a statutory register.
"8. When a pupil is excluded from school for more than five non-consecutive days in a school year, the pupil and their parents or carers should be given access to an independent advocate to help them navigate the process."

This is a school problem, not an EHE one.

 "10. Schools should publish their permanent and fixed term exclusion rates by year group every term, including providing information about pupils with SEND and looked-after children. Schools should also publish data on the number of pupils who have left the school."

This is a school problem, not an EHE one.

"13. In light of the evidence we heard on children with SEND, the Department must reconsider the potential for creating an independent, neutral role, allocated to every parent or carer with a child when a request is made for a needs assessment, which has the responsibility for co-ordinating all statutory SEND processes including the annual review, similar to the role of the Independent Reviewing Officer for looked-after children."

How is this different to the Named Person scheme that Scotland tried, and failed, to implement?

Elective Home Education: Local Authorities and support

  • More specific definition of 'suitable' education
  • Clearer expectations on LAs and Parents with regards to EHE.
  • DfE should track and publish SAOs at a national level on an annual basis. 
  • Ofsted should have a role in quality assuring Local Authorities.
  • LAs must have the ability to see a child in person.
  • Contact with EHE family is at least annual.
  • LAs should ask to see samples of work.
  • LAs should "assess" [note, how this didn't use 'monitor' here] children's progress from one year to the next.
  • DfE to provide clear set of criteria against which suitability of education can be assessed.
  • DfE should commission and roll out a national training package for all EHEOs.
Outcomes, assessment and exams for children receiving EHE
  • There should be more research done examining the life chances and social outcomes of EHE children.
  • Government should act on the issue of inequitable access to exams for EHE children.
  • Removing barriers of cost and distance to exam entry would help.

And that's the end of the main document.  At this point, I'm only on p46/67 but it's all appendices and things left.  I'll give it a quick skim through....

Not much interesting of note there, other than the list of published submissions: There are only 488 listed submissions, even though the ECS stated it received over 900.  And I know plenty of people who wanted to be published, have not been included at all, including leading academics.
My personal submission is there - it is one of the anonymous "Member of the Public", yet when you click through, my name is clearly displayed at the top!
Have a nosey through the list and see if you can see any names you recognise. 😀

Strengthening Home Education - Part 4

If you haven't already read it, please click HERE to see Part 1 of my read-through. 
And HERE is the original report.

Section 3 is entitled "Elective Home Education: Local Authorities and Support".

Local Authority Powers
"64. We note that the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel plans to carry out some work on EHE, focussing specifically on children who are vulnerable to safeguarding risks if they are not at school, and analysing “the extent to which elective home education has been a factor in the serious harm or death of a child.”103 We hope that this work will serve to better inform policymakers, and inject some light into a heated debate."

Conveniently forgetting that EHE has NEVER been a contributory factor in any SCR, and not only that, EHE was wrongly quoted in over 10 SCRs when the child had no connection to home education at all!  Most worryingly about this, there was no process for getting the SCRs reviewed and corrected!

Don't forget: RESEARCH EXISTS! 

"The Local Government Association told us there was “no mechanism” for a council to insist on speaking to a home-educated child without a specific safeguarding concern."

And, in the absence of any concern, why should a random from the council insist on speaking with a specific child?  Why is the assumption that an adult should have the right to speak to someone just because they want to? And if that is a right that adults should have - please can someone get my David Beckham's address so I can invite myself round and demand to speak to him, even "without a specific safeguarding concern"?

I wanted to include a gratuitous picture here of Mr Beckham topless.
However, I couldn't find one due to copyright, so this is the best I could do - 
a photo of a window sticker from 

"On the other hand, HEAS found that the present legal framework provided the “correct balance beween [sic] the rights of home educators and the duties of the authorities.”"

...which is absolutely right.  Powers are already there when they are needed, they do not need to be changed.

"We believe there should be a mechanism for local authorities to speak with a child receiving EHE in order to assess whether the duty to provide a suitable education is being met."

Does the LA or the ESC or the DfE meet with every single schooled child?  Or do they determine the basis of the education from reports produced by the school?  Education and welfare should not be conflated - which is what the current ESC continually does,

"” In Ofsted’s view, local authorities should have powers to visit the child’s home to make assessments of home education but that those powers should be limited to ensure that they can only be used when there are “reasonable concerns” about the suitability of the home education, and not used “routinely.”"

i.e. even Ofsted says that EHE children shouldn't be before an EHEO as matter of routine; only where there are reasonable concerns - i.e. the current guidance.

Government consultation and guidance

This next section is a lot of bollocks and conjecture.  Basically, the ESC seems to think that forcing HErs to jump to the tune of the LA will improve relationships, and that defining a 'suitable education' will be beneficial - clearly they do not understand the nuance within home education.

Tracking SAOs, however, will be a good thing for the DfE to do; especially if they publish the results.

Visibility of EHE in wider guidance

"74. We heard that EHE was invisible in key guidance on keeping children and young people safe. For example, Working Together to Safeguard Children, the statutory guidance on inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, does not mention home education."

 Or could it be that it doesn't mention EHE because EHE is not a concern?  I've not read it, admittedly, but does the Working Together to Safeguard Children document mention veganism, because some children are vegans, or perhaps it mentions pink clothes, because some children wear pink clothes?

The potential role for inspection

In this section, there was 1 paragraph that summarised "Of the hundreds of written submissions that we received from home educating families and the organisations that support them, many strongly rejected the inspection of individual families." Yet, there were 7 following paragraphs detailing why there should be inspection.  Given that we no over 75% of the published submissions reject any more interference by LAs, why is there disproportionate amount of space given to the minority within this report?

"88. The Department must assign Ofsted a role in quality assuring the delivery of local authority support for EHE and adherence to EHE guidance. This will require the creation of an inspection framework, based on the clarified guidance for local authorities and EHE families that we also expect the Department to produce."

Will this mean that home educating families can complain to Ofsted when a LA steps out of line?  
It  says in the 2019 Guidance that LAs should tell home educators when there is an upcoming inspection by Ofsted so that they can have their say.  I'm still collating the responses from my FOI requests atm, but the vast majority of LAs have never given evidence from home educators into an Ofsted inspection, and of those that say they have, I think they misunderstood (based on ongoing conversations) and thought I was asking about whether Ofsted has asked to view the EHE department - a totally different thing!

"By contrast, home educators emphasised to us that the fact of being home-educated did not constitute a safeguarding risk. However, ...

Home education is not a safe guarding risk.  That is 100% true. However, the ESC likes to ignore facts and rather make up biased opinions in order to grab themselves more power.

"91. The Department must clarify and strengthen the expectation in its 2019 guidance that local authorities make contact with parents on at least an annual basis, so that local authorities have the ability to see a child in person (at a venue of the family’s choosing) in situations where this is necessary to establish the suitability of the education they are receiving. The Department must make any necessary statutory changes to enable this, and make clear that:

• annual contact with an EHE family is a minimum expectation;

• local authorities should be asking to see examples of children’s work and parents should not reasonably refuse this;

• local authorities should be assessing children’s progress from one year to the next, especially in areas such as literacy and numeracy which are essential to access future educational opportunities and employment. By the time children are at the age when they would leave compulsory schooling, they should be able to demonstrate the same baseline numeracy and literacy skills that we expect from their schooled peers. While children with SEND may follow different paths, it is vital that they too have the right support provided so that they can flourish.

92. The Department should provide local authorities with a set of clear criteria against which suitability of education can be assessed, taking into account the full range of pedagogical approaches taken in EHE, as well as the age, ability and aptitude of individual children, including where they may have SEND."

This is quite frankly horrifying.

Annual Contact - only if it is contact (like a report of a phone call [or visit for those who want them]) rather than specifying it must be a visit.

Examples of children's work - how does this work for children who do not produce written work?  Maybe the child reads a lot and has great discussions and in depth conversations? How wil this work for unschoolers who often do not produce formal written work?
And what about the rights of the child?  What if they don't want to share their work?  What if they are a perfectionist and don't want others to see their mistakes? Or what if they had a bad experience at school, and whilst they are happy to produce written work, they do not want it shared?

Assessing progress annually - again, this doesn't make sense and does not take account of all the differing types of home education.  My eldest, DD1, taught herself to read aged 3.  Once she had mastered that skill (solving the puzzle of shapes on a page), she decided she didn't like reading.  She could read, but chose not to.  Now she is in secondary school (her choosing) and can read and write with the best of them.  Would it be deemed that she hadn't progressed, because I couldn't produce a list of books that she had read each year?  When in fact, she could read. On the other side of the HE coin, I know children who couldn't read until they were 10+.  They had no need nor any desire to, but learnt plenty in other ways - visually, audibly, orally, hands-on etc etc. Once they had internalised the need and motivation to learn to read, they got on with it.  Without the stigma of not being able to ready by XX age, the child had nothing to hold them back.  In these cases, it isn't uncommon for the child to develop a love of reading, and reading various 'hard' literary texts.
Similarly in numeracy, children do not learn in straight lines.  They do not learn this one year, that the next, but learning is messy, flows from one topic to another and sometimes covers old ground, sometimes learns things anew.  Expecting children to progress by following some arbitrary standards defined by age (which though they haven't said it, is what will be up ahead if we're not careful) is not realistic of how people learn.

More consistent support from local authorities, including for children with SEND

Most of this section is good in that it emphasises that there is no consistency across LAs.  Unfortunately, my concern is that the ESC will bring all LAs down to the lowest standard <cough>Portsmouth<cough> rather than getting all LAs to behave like their better counterparts.

"The Association of Elective Home Education Professionals told us in their submission that from Autumn 2021 Birkbeck College would be offering essential training for local authority EHE professionals."

Who are the AEHEP?  Read my previous blog post to find out what we don't know about them.  Despite them talking to the DfE lots, having input with the HE Inquiry, and setting up meetings for various EHEOs, the AEHEP is not a professional association.  Again, I am in the middle of collating responses from FOIs I have done regarding the AEHEP, and despite repeatedly being told the AEHEP has incurred "no costs except staff time" the number of man-hours x£25/hr means there is in fact a big cost associated with this club.

"99. Given the rise in EHE numbers and lack of consistent support from local authorities, the Department should commission and roll out a national training package for all local authority officers with responsibility for EHE—developed with a wide range of stakeholders—so that those officers have a thorough and consistent understanding of the duties of and guidance for local authorities. That package should explain the various EHE approaches—possibly in the form of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). All local authority officers with responsibility for EHE must be expected to complete that training as part of their job."

This training MUST be produced with collaboration with national Home Education organisations.  The fact that they are suggesting Mr. Monk's training to be "essential" is dangerous and erodes the little faith that home educators have with the ESC and local LAs.

So, that's the end of Part 4.  Part 5 will be looking at outcomes and assessment for EHE kids.

Taste by Mary E Twomey

Another book by Mary E Twomey, and another series that I got hooked on - this time I read all 9 books in under a week!

Taste follows the life of October Grace.  She works as a nurse in a prison, lives with OCD and an obsession with cleaning, and has a dysfunctional relationship with her hoarding mother.  Out of the blue, her mother announces her engagement to an English gentleman, Ezra, and October and her brother Ollie prepare to meet the man willing to take on their mother.  In Ezra's house, October cannot cope with her mother's charade, and runs to the bathroom to wash her hands again.  Whilst there, October accidentally overhears Ezra's family talking about her, specifically whether she is the one they've been looking for...

The blurb says:
Just when correctional nurse October Grace has a handle on her stressful job and taking care of her mentally ill mother, a shifter king and a potential vampire mate plunge her into a foreign land that’s on the brink of starvation. Now, with a ticking clock and a target on her back, October takes up the mantle of becoming one of the rare Omens who can bring hope to a dying world.

Mason and Von remain by her side to shield the national treasure while she sacrifices herself to reap the souls that will feed the nations of Terraway. As the death toll rises daily, October finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat world where fairytale creatures run wild… and every day is a new bloody battle.

Given that I bought and read the whole series, it's obviously I liked it, so I'll start this review by saying what I didn't like: the chapter titles.  Such a small thing, I know, but I found they gave away what was about to happen, so I had to train myself to not read them as I was going through this book.

This book as a fantasy, so there are many fantastical creatures in addition to the humans: vampires, shape-shifters, mermen, Goblins, and reverse centaurs amongst them.  It is set between Terraway and Earth (or Topside), and only a few people from each Terraway country can port between the two.  Unfortunately, Terraway is in the grip of the evil Sama, who despite being banished to an undisclosed island, still manages to cause terror in the nations through starvation and famine.  Terraway needs to stop its scorching suns, so that their food can grow, but because a magical stone has been hidden Topside, the only way to keep the heat of the suns in check is for Omens to reap a soul for Topside for each nation, every day.  Until now, only Ezra's daughter Mariang has been able to reap souls, but fortunately for Terraway, October is about to be awakened...

It is YA.  There is copious amounts of kissing and snogging between October and almost all the male characters, but no sex scenes.  The closest to a sex scene is the occasional spicy dream that October has, but even these would be suitable for a teen to read. In the later books there is reference to rape (though the specifics are not described) and as has been hinted, October is polyamorous.  

I like the way Mary E Twomey writes about the psychological side of October's personality, the impact of her neglectful mother, the impact of growing up not knowing her father, and essentially being parented by her older brother and sister.  Despite all the trauma and underprivilege of growing up in a trailer park, October has made it on her own two feet. And because some of the characters are English, I liked how Twomey includes English dialect (though to me, they are just normal words, lol) - who doesn't use 'hence' in a sentence?? The only minor criticism here is the use of "mates" and "knickers".  Whilst an English person would call someone "mate" or refer to their "mates", you wouldn't actually say to a group of friends "hey mates", rather in this circumstance you'd say "hey guys" (where guy refers to male and female friends).  Similarly, "knickers" are specifically female underwear, a bloke would wear "pants" (though I do understand the confusion with Americans calling trousers, pants) or depending on the type of pants, you'd call them Boxers or Y-Fronts. 

Taste was T in my A-Z of Fiction Titles.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, my U is also by Mary E Twomey (Ugly Girl) and is also the start of a series.  I am forcing myself to take at least a week's break from reading so I can bet back to the real world a bit and do all the stuff I've been neglecting, before I dive headfirst into yet another absorbing word.