Monday Magic – Inspiring posts for Halloween!

Good evening – yes, I know, evening, Pain Pals!  I am just about managing to make this a Monday Magic post, having spent yesterday and today asleep after The Book Club party on Saturday – I could tell you that it was over indulgence, but sadly these days it is just down to fatigue.  Those of you in the know appreciate how hard it can be to do anything – and believe me when this mum doesn’t even care what is going around her in the house (yesterday) things must be dire!! But a good time was had by all and we came away with some fantastic goody bags full of TBC author books – all arranged by the lovely Tracy Fenton (TBConFB and Compulsive Readers blog).22886045_10156006115356495_3468543215709480442_n

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The lovely Tracy Fenton – we got the cake there in one piece, just!

 

Anyway feeling a bit more human now, and noting the date…..I thought I would have a flick through some of the fab groups I belong to and find my favourite Halloween inspired posts.  There are some spooky books, scary films, ghostly doughnuts and a haunted Indian fort.  My personal favourite as a baker is the Brain cake! So it is time to sit down, grab your favourite tipple and enjoy some All Hallow’s Eve fun!  As for me…on the topic of all things eerie, I’m off to start season 2 of Stranger Things!

Free-Halloween-Wallpaper-(01)

http://www.imagineeredvacations.com/the-ultimate-disney-halloween-2017/

http://www.annanuttall.com/6-ghost-books-for-adults/

https://thephilfactor.com/2017/10/24/top-ten-tuesday-the-ten-scariest-movies-of-all-time-3/

https://jaipurthrumylens.com/2017/10/28/bhangarh-fort-ghost-haunted-stories-rajasthan/

https://butterflyinremission.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/funnybones-my-halloween-flashback-nostalgia/

https://www.momtrends.com/2017/10/delicious-healthy-candy-swaps-halloween/

http://www.natalieshealth.com/2017/10/halloween-ghost-vanilla-donuts/

https://justanotherblogfromawoman.blog/2017/10/26/halloween-playlist/

https://www.yourvetonline.com/halloween-top-safety-tips-keep-pet-safe/

https://fancypaperblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/how-to-theme-a-one-year-olds-party-for-halloween/

https://www.judyedwinamartin.com/couple-of-halloween-limericks-witch-and-werewolf/

https://marriedcatladysite.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/decisions-decisions/

http://www.sherbakes.com/2016/10/step-by-step-tutorial-on-how-to-make.html

Halloween Brain cake

Image from Sherbakes.com

Please like, comment and share anything you enjoy!

Claire x

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Nobody said it would be easy – cake, life and curveballs

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Tonight is the 3rd birthday for The Book Club on Facebook – a fantastic group that I belong to full of authors, reviewers and readers.  Basically book people.  Yours truly has been making the birthday cake over the last few days and with a shoulder slipping in and out of socket it has been no easy task!

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Of course I have been too ambitious and I always start with an image of the finished cake, and then am disappointed in my results.  This has taken me longer not just due to my lack of a right arm – yes, I am right handed – but also down to the design and needing to let it harden in phases.  More of that later.  It has made me draw parallels with expectations of everyday life – don’t worry I’m not going to get too deep here.

But how often do we set out with expectations of how an area of life will turn out only to be disappointed.  So many people talk about their life plans from university to careers to marriage to children etc, etc.  But life has this habit of throwing in a few surprises and curve balls along the way doesn’t it? Isn’t this true for everyone?

Life with illness – be it chronic, acute, mental or physical – is something few of us can anticipate and much less embrace.  When I set off to nursing college as an eager 18 year old, I never dreamed that life would turn out like it has.  But then I guess it is a good thing because with each setback it is so important to be able to get back up, brush yourself off and continue.  If I had known when I had major back surgery at 21 that by 38 I would be heading for medical retirement, I might not have tried so hard to get myself back on my feet and back to work.  I loved those years nursing and I think that I was a pretty good nurse.  If I had known my genetic diagnosis – Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – and all that it covers aged in my teens, I might not taken up rowing and then gone on to nursing – probably the worst things I could have done but great experiences.

But then some of the curve balls can be pleasant surprises.  For me probably the biggest surprise was falling pregnant when I had been told I would never conceive naturally.  The tiredness, anaemia and nausea/sickness turned into a pregnancy when my GP carried out a PAP smear and informed my cervix was blue – a classic sign of a 13 week pregnancy apparently!  I was taking HRT and had gone for a check up ahead of a new job – but came out as a mummy.  A huge curve ball, not in the game plan but fantastic (although I wasn’t saying that half an hour ago when said babe, 21 years on, created havoc in the kitchen with a pot of pasta on the stove!).

Being Mum

The surprise. aged 4 weeks….now a cover board on Pinterest!

I suppose what I am getting at is the importance to strive hard but also to accept that not everything will go exactly to plan…..and this is ok.  For me I’ve been thinking about the periods of needing to let my cake set before I can continue with it – living with chronic illness has these periods when fatigue hits and symptoms flare equalling a need to rest and pace.  Wait for the cake to set!  Don’t rush it, don’t take short cuts because there will be some sort of pay back.  In my experience this is life – illness or not.

So back to the cake….it is for a book club, so clever clogs here decided to make a stack of books.  The individual books were made – one chocolate, one Victoria sponge and one lemon – and then the icing covers started.  This is where the patience and waiting was required and I’m not good at this part!  Then last night came the final assembly of the three tier cake to form a stack of books……it wasn’t completely straight forward, there have been a couple of corners broken, some scaffolding was required and this morning some patch were required to plaster a few stress fractures.  The result is a stack of books that are not altogether straight and definitely look like they have been well loved if a little dog eared.  Not so different to life, I’d say – starting with high expectations (nothing wrong with that and I am not saying they should be lowered), hitting a few bumps along the way, the odd curve ball and maybe the finished product not quite as expected, but nevertheless created and to be made the best of.  Not always easy to do or accept, but as the infamous anonymous quote says “Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it..”

Will let you know if this holds for the cake when it is tasted, as for comparisons with life….what do you think?

Nobody said....

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Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You

Welcome back to Pain Pals for what I hope will be a great week following a fantastic weekend! Those of you who have read my previous couple of posts will know that our lovely girl has her German exchange partner staying – an equally lovely young man of 15 and about 6 feet 3!!  We had a house full on the first night as we hosted all the English girls and German boys & girls to help break the ice; and then when hubby arrived home Saturday evening having collected from ice skating & bowling, I couldn’t help thinking “Bloody hell, my new car really is big” as the front door opened and a stream of teens came in.

There were 16 in total – and no it turns out that the car isn’t really a Tardis – but they were followed by a steady stream of takeaway deliveries from 5 outlets.  I can’t remember when, if ever our doorbell has rung so many times on a Saturday night! I just commented on an EDS Facebook group that a huge positive for us this week has been to see our normally angst ridden teen turn into a group organiser and hostess.  We had only been expecting 6 back on Saturday, but in order to avoid some breakdowns within the group our girl sorted them all (and took over our lounge ha, ha, ha) with tact and diplomacy to ensure everyone had a good evening.  Teenage relationships can be so tricky at the best of times, but throw in different languages, exchange partners paired who ordinarily wouldn’t be in the same friendship groups, one all girls school & one mixed sex, and the probability for issues is huge!  It has been interesting to see that the mixed sex pairings – like our lovely girl and lovely German boy – have been less problematic than the all girls – teenage girls and friendships equals another blog post entirely methinks!  The mixed sex group – 4 couples – went to Thorpe Park Fright Night on Friday and had a fantastic time. Not my cup of tea but they loved it.

IMG_3477As for me I am officially exhausted, typing one handed whilst in a sling again, but am officially one very proud mum having watched my girl blossom before my eyes.  Some might say turning into a chip off the old block – and even her eldest brother commented that the social awkwardness she professes to have is just not evident for the rest of us.  Today they have all gone to Brighton – the Pavilion, fish and chips, the beach and the lanes. Whilst the fatigue and dislocation have taken their toll, I have found some more fabulous blog posts for you to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

So grab a cuppa, kick you heels up and sit back to read some fab pieces, all very different but all inspiring.  I particularly love the Lush products review from Katie Cupcake and the beautiful piece about friendship from Happiness and Food. Enjoy!

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Photo from Katie Cupcake Life With ME

 

https://fictionisfood.com/2017/10/14/thoughts-on-nannowrimo/#more-4179

https://www.sp-bx.com/rick-and-morty-season-3-review-the-best-season-so-far/

https://clockworkclouds.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/can-you-overthink-an-idea/

http://katiecupcakelifewithme.com/review-with-me/lush-karma-spa-treatment-event-review/

https://www.happinessandfood.com/name-happy/

https://zebratalez.com/2017/10/15/10-social-security-disability-tips/

http://invisiblenotbroken.com/blog/2017/10/4/best-podcasts-to-listen-to-when-stuck-in-bed-with-chronic-pain

http://withoutacrystalball.com/2017/10/12/day-found-family-chronically-ill/

http://www.healthyeatingexperts.com/holistic-therapist-kicked-depression-said-bye-bloat-chronic-digestive-issues-naturally/

https://livingwithme.blog/2017/10/12/all-time-low/

Please comment, share and spread some love for your fellow bloggers.

love Claire x

Monday Magic - Inspiring Blogs for You! (1)

 

 

Blog Tour & Review for “Need You Now” -first in the series of Cloud Bay novels by Emma Douglas

I was fortunate to be given an ARC copy of this book by the author and her publishers, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Imagine that you are the daughter of a legendary rock star, the lead singer of one of the biggest rock bands to come out of the USA. The same legendary rock star who gave you half siblings by different mothers, a dysfunctional yet privileged upbringing and his own brand of love.  An upbringing on an island that, since your father’s untimely death and the subsequent breakup of the band, has become the place of pilgrimage for fans wanting to visit a pivotal place in the band’s history – an island that is your home.

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Imagine that you are a tennis player, at the top of your game with sponsors and adoring fans following your every tournament.  But following shoulder surgery, it is becoming harder and harder to remain in those top rankings and you have announced your unexpected retirement during a press conference.  Now said press, management and fans are desperate to change your mind and you need somewhere to just be incognito and happy in your decision.

Faith Harper is the daughter of Blacklight frontman Grey Harper, and she continues to be the face of the Harper clan in Cloud Bay on Lansing Island as she is the organiser of one of the country’s most popular music festivals, CloudFest. Caleb White has gone to ground since announcing his departure from the tennis circuit until his friend Liam invites him to a music festival, CloudFest, with exclusive use of the home of a Blacklight bandmember.  Neither is looking for a relationship, much less love…..

This is an easy to read, romantic fiction novel that doesn’t always follow the path that the reader expects.  There is a rapport between Faith and Caleb from the moment that they first lay eyes on each other, but they each come with huge amounts of baggage and Ms Douglas does not give us a story where the course of true love runs simply!  Throw in a complicated family that encompasses blood relatives and band members, the attention of the world’s paparazzi and a festival full of music lovers, bands, not to mention surprise acts that fail to show,  what could possibly go wrong?!

The characters are easy to warm to and I felt that they developed into three dimensional people over the course of the story.  It is light – so not for those of you looking for deep literature – but not written in a saccharine or overly sentimental way. Great for a weekend away on a sun lounger or curled up at home for an autumn evening or two. I enjoyed Need You Now and I think that if you are a fan of romantic, contemporary fiction you will too.  This gets 4 stars from me and I’m looking forward to more in the series.

Available from Amazon  Need You Now (Cloud Bay), a Cloud Bay Novel by Emma Douglas – in paperback and Kindle, and other stockists.

Published by St Martin’s Press, 29 August 2017. Macmillan

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link

To conclude her Book Blog Tour – Q&A with author Laura Trentham

Earlier this week I posted my review for new novel Leave the Night On and now to celebrate and conclude her blog tour, here is a fantastic Q&A with author Laura Trentham.

 

  1. What inspired the novel plot?

Plots are strange things for me…I can rarely pinpoint anything in particular that triggers an idea. They usually pop into my head when I doing something else entirely like making dinner of driving the kids around.

  1. What’s your favorite scene? Why?

I love the scene where Sutton gets drunk and finally propositions Wyatt for real. I hope it’s funny and sexy and the reader can feel her mortification when she thinks he turns her down.

  1. Who’s your favorite character? Why?

Wyatt. He’s sexy and tough, but also incredibly sweet. He loves his family and would do anything for them. My heroes are complex and most definitely not a-holes.

  1. Any other books in the pipeline?

Two more Cottonbloom books! WHEN THE STARS COME OUT (1/30/2018) features Wyatt’s twin brother Jackson. SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE (8/2018) is Mack Abbott’s book. Also, sometime in the fall of 2018, I’ll have a military themed romance/women’s fiction book releasing! I’m super excited about it too.

  1. What led you to write in this genre over others?

Actually, my first books were historical romances, and I’ll be re-releasing two and adding a new book in my historical Spies and Lovers series this fall (Sept/Nov 2017). But, while the historical books were on submission with publishers, my agent suggested I try a contemporary. It sold to St. Martin’s Press only a couple of months after my historicals sold. I’ve set all my contemporaries in the American south because that’s where I was born and have lived most of my life. I understand the way southerners talk and think.

  1. Do you have a favorite book and author?

I’m going to have to throw it back to Mary Stewart as my favorite author. I quite often reread her books. But as far as which book I’ve reread the most, it would have to be Julie Garwood’s The Bride.

  1. Why and how did you decide you wanted to write for a living?

I’ve always been an avid reader, but I didn’t even consider writing until five years ago. My daughter started preschool, and going back to work doing what I went to school for (chemical engineering) wasn’t feasible. I sat down one morning and started writing. At first, I didn’t even tell my husband what I was doing. I won’t lie, it took a lot of work and rewrites to get those first manuscripts good enough. But, eventually, I signed with an agent and sold them both.

  1. What’s your favorite way to relax?

Reading! (I know that’s a shocker:) I also enjoy the mindlessness of games on my phone.

  1. What’s your favorite food?

Fried rice! I just learned to make it at home. My rice cooker is my second favorite appliance (behind my coffee maker!)

  1. Sounds like Sutton’s fiancé’s a cheating…um…cheats.  Why did you decide to use that as an aspect of your story?

Andrew is a secondary character in the first Cottonbloom trilogy about the Fournette siblings. He’s kind of a slime ball in those books too.

  1. Tell us something about Wyatt that we don’t learn from the book.

He likes to wear women’s underwear. Just kidding!! Actually, I’m drawing a blank, he’s an open, honest kind of man.

  1. This book is set in Mississippi.  Does this location contribute to the story in some way?

It’s actually set half in Mississippi and half in Louisiana. I wanted a southern location. But, I also envisioned a twist on the wrong side of the tracks story. In Cottonbloom, the more affluent live on the Mississippi side and the blue-collar working class live on the Louisiana side. I wanted that push-pull and rivalry between the two. It informs the relationships between my couples.

Thanks Laura for a great new read!  I will be looking out for some of the other Cottonbloom books….quite fancy finding out what happens to those other Abbott boys!

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Blog Tour & Review for fab new book from Laura Trentham – “Leave the Night On”

Leave_the_Night_On_BlogBanner_v2I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest opinion.  All opinions are my own. The post does contain affiliate links on behalf of the author and publisher.

What would you do if the mechanic who is about to start work restoring your fiancé’s car pulls out a lacy thong from beneath the front seat of said car?  What if said tiny scrap of underwear didn’t belong to you, but you knew exactly who the owner was?  Not forgetting that you were about to send out your wedding invitations…..

This is precisely the situation that Sutton Mize finds herself in at the outset of the new romantic novel from Laura Trentham.  The garage is on the opposite side of the river to her own home and is a family business run by the Abbott brothers, all whom Sutton remembers from her childhood.  But today Sutton needs to keep her head held high having just realised that fiancé, lawyer Andrew Tarwater is having an affair rather too close to home.  So the obvious thing to do on confronting the guilty parties, if you are Sutton Mize, is to say that you have been having an affair yourself with…with…..the man who has just offered you support and comfort.  This man is Wyatt Abbott, mechanic.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but…..put into the mixing pot the rich girl, daughter of local Judge; the grease monkey attractive, muscled and sensitive; the self-absorbed, double crossing lawyer and fiancé; the “best” friend; and a sprinkling of family histories with a run-away mother, a superstition about the family line of Abbott twins and some very extreme weather conditions – you have the makings of a perfect chick lit romance novel!

I love a good old romance as much as the next person, but I always worry that there will be no character development and that the lead figures (particularly the women) will end up annoying me.  Not meaning to sound too pompous here, but there are some of those English literature lessons that I can’t shake off!  But I am pleased to say that Sutton proves herself to be more than just the pretty faced daughter of the local states man!  She is a savvy business woman with a hidden talent that her estranged sister and Wyatt help to nurture and her personality goes from strength to strength.  Wyatt also develops through the course of the book and I loved the relationship with his slightly eccentric twin aunts, which ran alongside his with his own twin and brothers.

If you are looking for a book to stick in your suitcase for a great summer read, this could be the one!  There seem to be enough a loose ends for the story to continue……Ms Trentham, do you have another up your sleeve?

For me this was a light hearted, enjoyable 4 star read!Leave the night on

Summer Fun Giveaway

Author Laura Trentham is running a Giveaway for a beach bag prize pack with Cottonbloom books! Win signed copies of the Cottonbloom series with bookmarks, bath bombs, scented soaps, and a beach ready bag at a Rafflecopter giveaway

 and at http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/746772681/?

Watch out for a Question and Answer post with Laura Trentham during the tour!

Author Bio:

An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.Laura Trentahm II

She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. The first two books of her Falcon Football series were named Top Picks by RT Book Reviews magazine. Then He Kissed Me, a Cottonbloom novel, was named as one of Amazon’s best romances of 2016. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.

 

 

Social Links:

Facebook

Author Blog

Twitter– @LauraTrentham

Author Website

 

Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

IndieBound

Powells

 

 Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Blog Book Tour: Review “Calling Major Tom” by David M. Barnett – Part 1

This week has seen author David M Barnett on a book tour flying between the online world of blogs & social media and the real life world of book stores, as he publicizes his wonderful book “Calling Major Tom”.  You can meet David at The Grove Bookshop, Ilkley  gateway to the Yorkshire Dales on Thursday 13th July from 7pm, if you are in the area!

I first wrote a book review at the beginning of the year ahead of publication and later recommended the book to my local book club as our monthly read.  I would like to share my review with you again, before putting some questions from our book club to the author.

Warning: whilst the review does not contain spoilers, the subsequent questions might!

Book Review for Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett

I was given a copy of this book(ARC) from Netgalley via The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair & honest review.  All views are my own.calling-major-tom

I challenge you, whether Bowie fan or not, to read this book without constantly having Space Oddity going round your head!  Thomas Major is a lowly scientist working at the British Space Agency when he finds himself in a position to be the first man to visit Mars.  The only thing is that it is a one way mission, but Thomas has his own reasons for wishing to leave his life behind & entering a self imposed solitude.  Back on earth the Ormerod family are struggling to survive – teenager Ellie & younger brother James living with grandmother Gladys whilst their father is in jail. Ellie should be having the time of her life shopping & partying with her friends, but instead her mother has died, she is working 3 jobs, caring for her brother & worrying that social services will split them if they realise that Gladys has dementia.

It was difficult to see how these two very separate story lines could interlink and work, but they dovetail together beautifully from the day that major Tom tries to call his ex-wife from space and Gladys answers the telephone.  Their lives are linked through the most unusual series of events which see Thomas Major helping the Ormerod family overcome financial and social issues…and even come to terms with a few of his own demons.

I loved this book – it made me laugh and cry.  The view from the space ship window is described so vividly that I could see it, and the personalities of the individual main characters brim with life.  The comedy that the writer incorporated into the character of Gladys turns a sensitive situation into a human one.  She made me laugh out loud.  The back story for Thomas Major unfolds and he is surprised to find himself changing as his relationship with the family on Earth develops and makes him re evaluate.  These people were very easy to identify with and I wanted to know what life had in store for them.  Mr Barnett makes the reader care.

A feel good story showing the best in human nature without over sentimentality, and how communities can come together.  An uplifting read that I give 5 stars.

Review also on goodreads, Netgalley & Amazon

Questions for the author

Who was the inspiration for the Thomas Major character?
Why space? And specifically Mars?
If Calling Major Tom were to be made into a film, who would you like to play Thomas Major? Matt Damon of The Martian fame?
The family dynamics between Gladys and her grandchildren are tangible – has David had first hand experience of dementia and if not where did he gain his insight for Gladys’s actions that made us laugh and cry?
Did Thomas see in the Ormerod family what had been missing from his own upbringing? Could he have ever moved forward from this if he had stayed on Earth?
When you started the book, did you intend that it would be so humorous?
 I remember that at the end I felt it wasn’t particularly heartwarming because I didn’t see how Major Tom was going to survive on Mars. What did the author think would happen next – or is there a sequel?
And finally….the obvious – are you a Bowie fan?
Some of the comments from my book club included:
Just finished the book, laughed out load, and cried, loved it!
 
Not finding this easy and it is because I am not liking using the iPad to read. (Book club read it – at my suggestion – before available as a  paperback book)
 
very quick read after the initial few pages…very funny..
General consensus was that we all really enjoyed it!

Answers to follow in Part 2

The book is published by Trapeze Orion Books UK
 
Available from 29 June in paperback, currently £5.59 and ebook £1.99 on Amazon

Calling Major Tom and also from your local bookstore (prices vary).

This contains an affiliate link.

Adrenal Fatigue – Pin review from Cathy, Ty Siriol Ceramics & Crafts

Cathy at Ty Siriol Ceramics and Crafts recently posted a short review for this book on pinterest which I thought I would share with you.

The “blurb” from Amazon reads “This is an incredibly informative and reader-friendly book about a common debilitating medical condition that goes largely undiagnosed and untreated. ADRENAL FATIGUE: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome is a very empowering work cram-packed with vital information about a condition that very likely affects millions of people”

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Cathy writes “I’ve recently read this book to try to get to the bottom of why I’m so exhausted, among other things. It’s a really good read and helps you to assess if this could be a problem for you as well as giving really thorough advice….” Remainder of her short review is here:

http://pin.it/tyWipX2

On Amazon the book has received 151 reviews with an average 4.5 stars out of 5.

THE GIRL IN BLACK by Kathy Lauren Miller – A REVIEW

K. D. Dowdall

“The Girl in Black” by Kathy Lauren Miller is a hauntingly taut murder mystery as well as an awesome page-turner! The mystery begins with high school senior, Kate Mckenna who happens to live in an old Victorian manor that is also the Mckenna Memorial Funeral Home. Her father, Dr. Brendan Mckenna, happens to be the county’s Chief Medical Examiner. Shy Kate, whose social life as always been nearly non-existent until she is thrust into the limelight when the promiscuous prom queen, Ashley is found tortured and murdered.

Accusations run rampant in Kate’s High School concerning several male students that were involved with Ashley. To make matters worse, Ashley’s remains now reside at the funeral home where Kate lives. Kate and her best friend Cooper, a computer nerd, and Kate’s unattainable heartthrob, handsome Shane, all become involved in Ashley’s murder. Suddenly, Kate finds herself in the cross hairs of the sadistic…

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Book Review “The Girl at the End of the Road”

Disclaimer: I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book by The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Girl at the End of the Road by K A Hitchins

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Vincent has found himself in a situation that any self-respecting “City” boy would balk at.  He has lost his job, his rented home, possibly his high maintenance girlfriend and perhaps most humiliating of all, he is on his way home to his parents’ house in Suffolk.  Rural Suffolk.  At this point in his life, a decade or so after leaving school, he did not expect to find himself becoming reacquainted with his childhood bedroom or learning how to live with his loving, but in his eyes, staid middle aged parents.

But he is clear in his own mind that this is just a temporary glitch.  The downturn in the economy and his huge personal debts will not hold him back.  However adjusting to life in the rural village of Elmsford proves hard for Vincent, who assumes himself to be a city hotshot.  There is no immediate access to internet, the job offers that he expected to flood in are nowhere in sight and his social life is virtually non-existent – unless you count dog walks with his parents’ elderly dog.  A trip to the local library brings him face to face with a memory from the past in the shape of librarian Sarah Penny.  Having run into this old school friend once, he finds himself encountering her on dog walks and then actively seeking her out.

So begins what initially seems to be the most unlikely of friendships.  Sarah is the antithesis of friends who have featured in Vincent’s life as she is serious, quiet, slightly dowdy and happy to be in Suffolk.  She is certainly unlike the city girls who dress and make up to the nines, expecting champagne fuelled dates and expensive accessories.  Sarah, in her almost simplistic view of the world, makes Vincent accept some unpleasant truths about himself and his attitudes to life.

The story could be very clichéd, and at first Vincent is a pretty unlikeable character.  But it was with real interest that I watched his character evolve from spoilt young man to something altogether different.  Maybe there is an element of fairy tale to this, but as Vincent grows so does Sarah and the reader begins to have a glimpse into a simple world of an exceptional young lady.  I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I believe that there is enough already written about Sarah’s autism not to be giving anything away.  I am not autistic so do not pretend to have any inside knowledge about this complex condition.  But I do belong to a community of chronic illness sufferers, some of whom are on the autistic spectrum and I have recently read articles by author Laura James, who has autism and my own condition, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.  I feel that Sarah’s autism, which included her extraordinary intelligence, has been handled sensitively and with relevance to real life.  For instance, her coping mechanisms at dealing with life following her mother’s death and her growing relationship with Vincent.

This book made me think, made me sad and in parts made me laugh out loud.  Perhaps most importantly it made me examine my own attitudes to those we consider to be different to ourselves and also those closest to us.  In my disability chronic illness community we call ourselves “spoonies”, in the book Sarah and her friends call themselves “The Specials” – a fantastic name.  Of course there is a moral to the story for Vincent regarding what in life really makes you happy…..and sometimes you are unable to see it for trying too hard.

For me a great read, with a long review, but 5 stars all the way!