Making It Up as we go along Sat, 09 Jun 2018 00:45:45 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Days of Wonder by Keith Stuart Fri, 08 Jun 2018 17:00:34 +0000 I have a confession to make. I don’t like heart warming books. I’m not a fan of tear jerkers. So why did I read Days of Wonder, when I had a pretty good idea of what was coming? Because it’s Keith Stuart, and although I feel I shouldn’t love his books, (I read YA! and SFF!) I just do.

Tom and Hannah. A single father, and a daughter with a life limiting heart condition. It’s a recipe for heart warming and tear jerking all in one, and it could so easily be cliched and tragic. And it just isn’t. It’s glorious, and magical, and heart rending and sarcastic and unexpected and OK, just read it?

You will need to set aside a reasonable amount of time, it’s a pretty hefty book. I’m kind of surprised it’s not already signed up to be a film to be completely honest with you, seems like someone is missing a trick there. (Or a play. Although that might just be a bit too tortuously meta 😉 ) There’s a wonderful supporting cast, and I sobbed more than once while reading it. Tissues. Really should come with tissues.

Have I sold you on it yet? Your handy Amazon (affiliate) link is right here if so.

Further blog related activity below.

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Life Satisfaction: A Scientist’s Guide by Leo Lafferty-Whyte PhD. Mon, 28 May 2018 09:03:10 +0000 There is an irony, I feel, in this post. A few days back I posted about doing 15 days of giveaways. I then failed completely and utterly to even put together the widget for the first giveaway, and have been slumped in a heap of self recrimination ever since.

So how can I possibly be posting on the topic of Life Satisfaction? It’s quite simple. I know that I’m not doing particularly well at being organised, and that stresses me out more than a little. So when I was offered a copy of Life Satisfaction to review, I grabbed at it, in the hope it might just have the elusive answers I’m searching for.

It’s a very approachable book – friendly and practical. I personally find the layout a little busy – there are graphics in the corner of every page and I find that a touch overwhelming. Not enough to put me off the book though, so that’s a good indicator of how useful I found the content.

As the author says, this book might not suit everyone. It’s quite list oriented, is designed for someone looking for structure but struggling to get it organised, and there’s even some maths up front. None of these things put me off – I actually found the idea that it might not be the one right answer more comforting than not. (I hate things which claim they are going to work for everyone. It’s not likely really is it?) I did find the layout a bit difficult to work with at times – so for example when you’re told to fill in a particular form, but there’s no indication of the page you’ll find the form on. A minor quibble though – if you like have structure and someone virtually hand holding, I think this book is worth a look. And what’s more, Leo will send you spreadsheets to help you with various bits of the form filling if you email him (address in the book!).

Now, I haven’t had time to work through getting the whole process into place, but I am trying to work out how to do that, and if/when I do I’ll report back. This would echo the second half of the book which is an account of the author trying out his own self help techniques – definitely a good way to build confidence, showing that he’s up for trying what he’s trying to get you to do.

I would say though, if you’re looking to get stuck into this, do take some time to read the whole book and then go back to work through the steps more slowly. It’s a lot to take on board in a first read, and some of the terminology can feel a bit technical and hard to grasp. Still, if this stuff was easy, we wouldn’t need life coaches or self help books would we? 😉

To summarise – this isn’t a book for everyone, it’s quite technical feeling in approach and can be a bit busy to read. But Leo is an engaging and honest author, and I get the impression he’s quite a no nonsense but still caring person, so if that’s what you’re looking for in a life-coach-in-book-form give it a whirl.

The technical details:

Title: Life Satisfaction: A Scientist’s Guide
Author: Leo Lafferty-Whyte (find him on twitter
Release Date: 5 th May 2018
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: CreateSpace
Format: Paperback

Buy on Amazon (affiliate) Link:

(choose from black and white and technicolour.)

Further tour details

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Happy blogaversary to me. Tue, 22 May 2018 22:44:05 +0000 15 years of blogging. Here’s to the next 15.

Today’s giveaway:

A mini monster. Yet to be made (you can’t have the spotty one, that’s Tigerboy’s. )

Mini monsters in the making

There’ll be a gleam widget here in a minute if my battery lasts. (Ok, it hasn’t. Tomorrow. )

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The Secret of the Night Train by Sylvia Bishop Mon, 21 May 2018 08:00:49 +0000 We’re very happy today to be kicking off the blog tour for a wonderful MG book by Sylvia Bishop, the Secret of the Night Train. Smallest has read it, and will be contributing her thoughts after we’ve heard from Sylvia.

Book cover - The secret of the night train by Sylvia Bishop

Train no. 1: TGV Duplex (Paris – Munich)

In my new book, The Secret of the Night Train, Max Morel takes a journey from Paris to Istanbul on four trains. She is accompanied by a nun called Sister Marguerite, and must solve the mystery of a smuggled diamond. I was lucky enough to do this journey myself, and wrote a lot of the book on board. In this series of blog posts, I talk about my real journey, and how it informed the book.

So here we are on the first stop with Liveotherwise blog (AKA Paris – Munich)

Max begins her journey from Paris on the TGV Duplex train, a swanky blue double decker with comfy seats and soothing lighting and syrupy announcements in French and German. It leaves Paris at 3:55 – a nice, reasonable hour.

Lucky Max! For me, the TGV Duplex was train number 2. I had already crossed London on a deserted bus to get on the Eurostar horrendously early. And right before I went to sleep the night before, I managed to snap my glasses. So now I was wearing my contacts, but in case I needed anything in the night, I had my dodgily-sellotaped-together glasses perched on my head.

So I was tired, and surprised how homesick I felt. I have travelled by myself plenty of times, and I was not expecting this. I felt like a young child leaving home for the first time.

Dear reader, don’t let your kind heart break over my plight. The silver lining is so enormous it obliterates the meagre cloud. To avoid thinking about my homesickness, I did what I was there to do: I had seven hours on this train to start writing my story. And from my homesickness, Max was born. I didn’t know, until then, that she would battle homesickness on her journey. Now this drives her whole character.

There were so many useful little gems on that train. The weary-and-officious tut-pffff noises of the automatic doors seemed to announce the whole character of the policeman who would enter through them. Almost all the passengers left at Stuttgart, which really helped to narrow down Max’s investigations. Even the snapped glasses made an appearance, as our first suspect arrives on the scene with his glasses snapped – a bumbling British fool. An awful lot like yours truly.

Then from Munich, I started to really enjoy myself. But that’s another story.

Join us for the next stage of the journey tomorrow on Book Lover Jo’s blog

The Secret of the Night Train by Sylvia Bishop is out now, published by Scholastic (RRP £6.99) Buy at Amazon(affiliate link).

The drawback (from my point of view) of Smallest now loving to read is that I don’t get to share her reading experience in quite the same way as I used to. But we started the Secret of the Night Train in the time honoured way – I read the first two chapters aloud. It’s an excellent book for that, and rocks along nicely setting up the family and other characters in that first section. I really like Max, the protagonist, she’s lots of fun.

Then Smallest continued the journey by herself, so I’ll let her add her opinion of it all in her own words.

I enjoyed this book very much and I recommend it. The characters are two sided and the book is very adventurous. The train setting is genius and I think that many people my age would really enjoy it as it’s very exciting.

Basically, we like this book, and highly recommend it. Feel free to look it up 🙂

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Lifestyle changes, the Italian edition. Wed, 25 Apr 2018 16:11:58 +0000

A few months ago, t’other half had a bit of a wake up call from a scheduled GP encounter. Nothing immediately serious, but a whole load of little factors that add up together to mean that his overall health picture wasn’t nearly as good as it could be. Basically, his age, weight, lifestyle and being a man all added up to give a less than glowing forecast for his future health prospects – he came home with a prescription for a couple of sets of tablets and a very thoughtful outlook.

If you haven’t met him, you might not be aware of how stubborn determined he can be. And that he hates taking tablets. So we sat down together, had a bit of a brainstorm and came up with some fairly big changes, some for him, but some that would affect all of us.

He started exercising, and tried to stop smoking. His first attempts looked good – he was using nicotine patches to help with withdrawal. But he quickly got odd skin issues, and then when he changed brands it went very wrong, with the third patch quite literally burning a hole in his leg. (Seriously, we ended up at the walk in clinic, they’d never seen anything like it.)

Time for a rethink. He looked into medication, and vaping, having tried cold turkey unsuccessfully before. There are lots of options on vaping now, including things like this vape kit from Grey Haze. He had tried vaping once before with limited success – it turns out that the thing that makes the difference is motivation, and he’s got that in spades just now.

So, exercise up, and smoking down. Next change, and this one more down to me, food. I shifted away from our standard diet, and bought a Gino D’Acampo book – Pronto, Let’s cook Italian in 20 minutes.

I’m not very good at cooking, and the first couple of attempts were a bit disastrous, and nowhere near the 20 minutes advertised. But I persevered and instead of burgers, we’ve had Beef Bruschetta
Beef on Bruschetta or Italian style cottage pie (it has sneaky grated carrot in it too!) Italian style cottage pie

My favourite though, is the stuffed chicken breasts, I usually serve with rice and salad. They are *so* quick and easy to make, just slice and stuff, then roast for around 20 minutes. (It says 13 in the recipe, but mine has never done it that fast.)

Stuffed roasted chicken breast

It’s still early days yet, but Tim is already seeing weight loss and more importantly, reduction in size with an increase in energy. We bought a home blood pressure monitor and his levels have come down quite a bit, so while he’s still on his meds, we’re hoping that by his review in the summer he’ll be able to come off them. And more importantly, he’s happier and healthier, hopefully for much longer!

Have you had any health challenges that have caused you to make big life changes? Or do you have a favourite Italian recipe to share? Let me know in the comments.

This sponsored post contains affiliate links.

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The Leavers by Lisa Ko Mon, 23 Apr 2018 10:57:51 +0000

Today I’m pleased to be helping kick off the blog tour for the award winning The Leavers by Lisa Ko.


One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon – and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents’ desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid examination of borders and belonging. It’s a moving story of how a boy comes into his own when everything he loves is taken away, and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of the past.

Given the state of the world around us at the moment, this is a timely read. On belonging and not belonging, the stories of Deming/Daniel and Peilan/Polly his mother are tangled in past and present, knitting together families, cultures and countries.

The narratives switch between Daniel and Polly, and with a less talented writer, the switch in perspective would be a harsh interruption. But this flows despite the harsh content, in the way that a stream finds its way around rocks and tree roots. There’s a depth to the characters that draws you in to their story, making unfamiliar words and relationships welcoming and understandable. And discovering Daniel’s music linked him to my family, with a teen son playing guitar and a daughter writing songs.

I’ve set myself a challenge recently to read outside of my culture, to broaden my understanding of the world around me. (It feels like the only way to get to grips with the way our own country is dividing around us. Perhaps if I explore the reasons behind the divisions I can see a way to heal them?) The Leavers is a book with a wealth of areas to understand, America, China, adoptive families and homes broken by bureaucracy. (Like I said, timely.) I can see I’m going to be recommending it over and over, and reading it more than once myself. There are so many layers to the story that I know I’ll get more from it every time.

A beautiful, powerful, and important book.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

This post contains affiliate links.

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The Imaginary by A F Harrold illustrated by Emily Gravett Tue, 03 Apr 2018 23:00:41 +0000 Cover of the imaginary - two children hanging by their hands from a tree

Ages and ages ago I started reading The Imaginary as a bedtime story. Turned out it was far too scary to be an end of day book, so we moved it to lunchtimes. Although the children loved the language and the characters, some parts were very upsetting so we kept having breaks.

(Fortunately, you can renew library books online. And there are several copies of this in our library, so no one else requested it. )

Today though, we cuddled up on the sofa together and finally powered through the last 4 chapters. Although I did have to take a break for a happy sob at one part. (Please tell me I’m not the only one with that kind of problem. )

It makes a great read aloud though if your kids are at all nervous/sensitive I strongly advise pre reading. I very much take issue with the cover quote describing the book as a delight from start to finish – it is delightful, but there are also some very much less than delightful moments, even downright scary. My younger kids are 8 and 6 and we had a few issues at times (hence moving it from evening to daytime) though the fabulous pictures did make up for some of it too.

Emily Gravett does wonderful drawings. Tigerboy would appreciate more of them being in colour but that was his only complaint.

Good book, basically. I’ve got A Song from Elsewhere out of the library too, but I’m reading that for myself first.

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For world autism awareness/acceptance day, read autistic writers! Mon, 02 Apr 2018 14:37:10 +0000 If you want to learn about autism, the best way is to read the people who are autistic. Not people imagining what it’s like and writing about it. So for world autism awareness/acceptance day, a list of autistic authors/artists/writers/bloggers. This will obviously not be comprehensive, please feel free to add your own favourites in the comments.

(Note, amazon links are affiliate links.)

proof copy of the state of grace by rachael lucas next to a cup of coffee I read and reviewed Rachael Lucas’ The State of Grace last year and loved it. I highly recommend it for getting an insight into life as an autistic teenage girl. Buy at amazon.

M is for autism (review) and the sequel, M in the middle were written by a group of girls at Limpsfield Grange School, assisted by their teacher. More good titles for the teenage insight. Amazon here and here.

Corinne Duyvis, On the Edge of Gone is fantastic YA SF with a thoroughly believable autistic character in a very tough situation. Again reviewed last year, and available at amazon here.

Last fiction book I’ve read is Colin Fischer by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz. I didn’t like this one so much, which is probably why I’ve failed to review it so far, I found it a bit too stereotyped/ cliched in its portrayal of the main character Colin. But it’s the only fiction book by an autistic author I’ve come across so far featuring a male lead, so needs including I think. Amazon.

You can find reviews of other books with autistic characters on Disability in Kid Lit, a site well worth bookmarking.

Titles I haven’t read but would like to: Jen Wilde, Queens of Geek. (Amazon.) I’m very much excited by the idea of Stim:an autism anthology edited by Lizzie Huxley-Jones, currently crowd funding on Unbound Also hoping that I’ll get some new suggestions from this!

On memoirs, I’m waiting on Katherine May’s The Electricity of Every Living Thing, which is out in a couple of weeks time. It sounds fascinating, and right up my coastal path 😉 Check it out on Amazon. Also Laura James’ Odd Girl Out is now available in paperback (I *will* review this soon!). Amazon, and there’s Fingers in the Sparkle Jar from Chris Packham (another one awaiting review). Amazon.

I’ve also read and reviewed a number of other memoir books, some of which include helpful tips – here are links to my reviews (which have their own Amazon links within). Nerdy Shy and Socially Inappropriateby Cynthia Kim, Pretending to be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey and A Pony in the Bedroom by Susan Dunne. A slightly different focus in From here to Maternity: Pregnancy and Motherhood on the Autistic Spectrum is very helpful on how to manage your encounters with medical personnel through pregnancy.

Yet to be reviewed The Reason I jump by Naoki Higashida (99p on kindle today) and the sequel, Fall down 7 times, get up 8. (Amazon)

On slightly more academic rather than personal texts, there are some excellent titles available from Sarah Hendrickx (link to Amazon author page who is also an excellent trainer and speaker. Another well respected author is Dr Luke Beardon (slightly embarrassed to admit I haven’t read any of his yet, must rectify) with a good range of titles. Author page

If autistic artists or bloggers are more your thing, I recommend checking out Sonia Boue and Jon Adams (soundcube) via twitter in the first instance. For gems like this.

Twitter is a great place to find autistic writers and bloggers. We tend to use #ActuallyAutistic when we’re sharing our own work (please don’t use that to talk about people who are autistic though. It’s for self identification) so that’s a good place to start looking. There’s also a massive list of autistic bloggers here, I’ve no idea how current it is though.

I’ve no doubt left out lots of useful links and titles, and for that I apologise (I didn’t realise when I started how long compiling a list like this would take!). Please do feel free to suggest extra resources/ titles in the comments – if you’re a first time commenter your comment will be moderated, but I’ll keep checking so that I can release them into the wild 🙂

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Autism is Sun, 01 Apr 2018 18:00:09 +0000 A question? An answer. Often argument or debate.

An explanation. A reason. But not an excuse.

The shared love of time contemplating a dust mote in light. Another perspective on a complex world.

Finally friends found who just get it, through a lifetime of not quite there, and confused mixed messages.

Passion and love and righteous anger at injustice. Overwhelming emotions, a small boat in a stormy sea.

Sound. Every sound. All the time.

Velvet-hair-on-end shudders.

Being over looked and talked about but rarely listened to.

Diving into a new thing and the pleasure of losing yourself to it until it is understood, absorbed, encompassed and complete.

Understanding myself. Finally.

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Dreams and Regrets by Emily Williams, author of Rafferty Lincoln loves. Tue, 13 Mar 2018 18:03:12 +0000 You may or may not be aware that I have an occasional series of posts on the theme of Dreams and Regrets. (If not, follow the link.) Today I’m happy to add to that series as part of the Rafferty Lincoln loves blog tour, with a guest post from author Emily Williams.

Emily Williams


When Jax first talked to me about her dreams and regrets series for her blog, I was very excited. There are so many dreams in my head and I think I could talk forever about them! My dreams have evolved over the years but the central core – writing – has always been there.

My dreams during childhood were mainly pony-related. I spent hours fantasising that I owned a horse, buying all the equipment and saving my pocket money for the horse that never was. I read and saved every horse magazine going and grew a good collection of pony related non-fiction books and hundreds of pony stories, which to this day I still have. I guess the pony dream always stuck with me. Despite, in my early twenties, finally getting that pony the dream of horses and ponies is always there and still makes me smile.

I wrote endless pony stories and developed the dream of becoming a writer from an early age. This would be as early as primary school, when I first learnt to write. The stories always had animals in them, and mainly ponies or dogs. It was during secondary school that the dream became more concrete. Another child had had a story published in a magazine and I was jealous. I realised that it was writing that I wanted to do and wanted to become good at. The teachers were a great encouragement.

I continued to write stories, for my eyes only, right up until college, when I knew that I wanted to find an audience for my stories. University and boys took over for a while, but in my head, there were still stories. The dream never went away until the idea for Letters to Eloise (Amazon affiliate link) arrived. Never before had I a whole novel in my head bursting to get out. For once, I planned and developed a strict timeline. I always thought the dream was possible, I just didn’t think I’d ever have the motivation to finish.

When a publisher friend of mine printed me the first proof copy of Letters to Eloise, I knew I’d found my niche in life and the childhood dream of writing had begun.


I don’t have many regrets in life but I do regret not starting to pursue my dream earlier. I regret those wasted years and years spent unhappy at what I was doing with my life. I wasted my twenties. Although Letters to Eloise was already in my head, I didn’t sit down to write the novel until my late twenties/early thirties. I dabbled with short stories, occasionally sending them off to be rejected. But I didn’t properly give writing my full concentration.

I had a full-time job, a career that I was good at. However, the writing dream was always there, always niggling in the background waiting to be heard. I just wish I’d listened sooner and started writing those ideas in my twenties and not my thirties. But who knows, maybe I just wasn’t ready then.

A word from the author…

I wrote Rafferty Lincoln Loves… as I have always wanted to write a horse involving horses. I read many pony stories as a child, but have found that there are very few to read as a young adult/adult so I wanted to fill this void. I have been around horses from a very early age and spent many years saving to afford my own horse. Sadly, due to a road accident and then a fall of a horse, I can no longer ride. However, my passion and love for equines hasn’t diminished. Due to arm injuries from the accidents, I have had to dictate the novel, Rafferty Lincoln Loves… and am donating the proceeds of the novel to the British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre – a charity I have supported since childhood.

Many thanks for supporting the novel and I do hope you enjoy it!
Emily x

Find Rafferty Lincoln loves on Amazon (affiliate link)

The blurb of Rafferty Lincoln Loves…

Rafferty Lincoln doesn’t like horses. Not one bit. But when the popular high school girl of his dreams, Liberty Ashburn, pulls him into a world of lead ropes and horse brushes, who is he to say no?

Except this isn’t any old horse. This is the missing racehorse, Profits Red Ridge. The horse Rafferty and three of his friends are hiding from the world. And Liberty Ashburn isn’t just any ordinary high school girl. How far will Rafferty go to win her over?

An intense, witty and powerful coming of age story with startling consequences.

The proceeds from the novel ‘Rafferty Lincoln Loves…’ will be donated to The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre.

BTRC is dedicated to improving and promoting the welfare of retired race horses through education, retraining and suitable rehoming in order to ensure that our Thoroughbreds have a rewarding and valuable life after their racing careers have ended.

Each year thousands of horses leave racing, some because they reach the natural end of their career and others through injury or lack of ability. Established in 1991, The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre was the UK’s first charity dedicated to ex-racehorse welfare, retraining, rehoming and protection for life.

‘It is fantastic to see a contemporary novel for young adults embracing passion and love for horses, as well as advocating for their welfare. Emily’s fast-paced novel not only explores the relationship and incredible bond between horse and rider but also delves into darker aspects relevant to today’s challenging world of growing up. Rafferty Lincoln Loves… deserves to be celebrated for bringing an important cause to the forefront of today’s young adults.’ Frankie Dettori MBE

‘I am thrilled to have written this novel for the BTRC and to be donating the proceeds to such an important and dedicated charity for the welfare of retired racehorses.’ Emily Williams

Book cover - Rafferty Lincoln loves

Author Bio

Emily Williams lives by the seaside in West Sussex with her family and a menagerie of small pets, including her own horse Bella, and welsh mountain pony, Lucy. After graduating from Sussex University with a BA in Psychology, Emily trained as a primary school teacher and teaches in a local school.

Rafferty Lincoln Loves… is her first YA novel after the success of her debut adult novel, Letters to Eloise, released in 2017.

You can follow Emily on twitter
Find out more about Emily’s other books on Amazon
Read reviews and find out more on her blog

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