#Bookreview by Lou of The Winter Garden By Heidi Swain @Heidi_Swain @simonschusterUK

The Winter Garden By Heidi Swain Rated: 5 stars *****

The Winter Garden is a gorgeous, uplifting book by Heidi Swain that covers amazing ground within a community of people in Nightengale Square. Follow the blurb and review below to find out more. Thank you very much to Simon & Schuster for accepting my request to review.

The Winter Garden cover

Blurb

***The sparkling new Christmas novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author Heidi Swain!*** Will love bloom this winter?   Freya Fuller is living her dream, working as a live-in gardener on a beautiful Suffolk estate. But when the owner dies, Freya finds herself forced out of her job and her home with nowhere to go. However, with luck on her side, she’s soon moving to Nightingale Square and helping to create a beautiful winter garden that will be open to the public in time for Christmas.   There’s a warm welcome from all in Nightingale Square, except from local artist Finn. No matter how hard the pair try, they just can’t get along, and working together to bring the winter garden to life quickly becomes a struggle for them both.   Will Freya and Finn be able to put their differences aside in time for Christmas? Or will the arrival of a face from Freya’s past send them all spiralling? The Winter Garden is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Carole Matthews, Cathy Bramley and Sarah Morgan.

The Winter Garden cover

Review

Eloise Thurlow-Forbes is an octogenarian estate owner in Broadmeadows, country estate, Suffolk and sad events kick start something new and positive in Freya Fuller’s life. It seems very apt at the moment with all that is going on in the world. Certain things in her life, she decides need to change, such as her job, where she isn’t entirely happy. There is a bit of strength of character shown in the way she works things out and speaks up about how things were. This starts off as a journey of self-discovery as Freya stumbles over local radio stations that guide her to Nightengale Square that has a community garden at Prosperous Place, a place with a history and one that is going to have a future in the fact that people have come together to do renovations. It’s a gentle way of guiding readers to where  the destination is going to be. There is then planning and plotting between Freya and Luke for turning the garden one fit for winter. Both she and Luke have some heartache in their lives and there seems to be a positivity in the book about them turning their lives around and there are elements of mental well-being within what is a gentle, cosy read as the colder months come in.

The book has stories within it of other characters and how they came to be in Nightengale Square that make a community working towards the aim of transforming the garden. It is realistic and not all plain-sailing. There are ups and downs between people and much that I think readers will be able to relate to, as they get to know each other and try to work together to meet the same goal; but tempers fray at times and romance buds amongst them. In the story, it’s as people try to create Winterfest, but the same applies for any group of people coming together trying to do something new and also discover more about themselves and each other. The book doesn’t shy away from mental health conditions and it is shown in bursts as you get to know the characters as their backgrounds are revealed. The book, however, gives a sense of positivity as the “Grow Well” group develops and all feels authentic as the story moves along in its build up to Christmas, feel-good vibe that has a lot of compassion and community throughout.  

Write Up by Lou of Q&A with Cecelia Ahern @Cecelia_Ahern @BeccaKBryant @LizDawsonPR #Postscript

Q&A with Cecelia Ahern
Ahead of the paperback publication of Postscript
the sequel to PS. I Love You!

I have been given a great honour of joining a small group of book bloggers to collaboratively interview PS. I Love You author Cecelia Ahern. She has now published the sequel – Postscript, in which the hardback is available now. The paperback is available 1st October 2020.

First – the blurb of Postscript and a short review, with a more full on review to follow at a later date. Do follow the blurb, the short review and then onto the Q&A where you can find out some really exciting information about Postscript, what she is writing next and much more…

The PS, I Love You Club.

These are the six words written on a card handed to Holly Kennedy. They’re words that are engraved on her heart – because PS, I Love You is how her husband, Gerry, signed his last letters to her, letters that mark a year she will never forget.

Now, the mysterious club wants something from her. And if Holly can find the courage meet them, she’ll learn what it really means to live life to the full.

Because every love story has one last thing to say…

Postscript pic

Short review

Postscript is just amazing as it tackles so many themes from health issues to grieving. It’s a beautifully written book that has so much emotion within it. The health issues have clearly been researched, but don’t dominate. There is plenty of positivity in this book. It is, even after all these years, is at least as good as PS I Love You, if not a bit better in how it is written. Nothing is lost and there’s everything to gain when reading this, including feeling that it is a really emotional journey, but one taken with passion and feels heartfelt. It’s a great book to get reacquainted with Holly and other characters and meet some new ones too.

Cecelia Ahern pic    Postscript pic  
Q&A

How did you spend Lockdown?

Building Hogwarts Lego. That took about 4 weeks and worked on it for about an hour every evening.
She danced and cooked and walked a lot and got excited when the Irish government also increased the distance of travel from 2km to 5km and could go to a coffee shop to buy a coffee.

Cecelia also has 3 children of the ages of a nearly 1 year old, an 8 and a 10 year old. She hopes never to do homeschooling again.

Do you think as a writer lockdown suited you well?

She reckoned it doesn’t suit everybody, perhaps not extroverts who get their energy from being around other people. She is comfortable about not socialising all the time. She did however miss her family.
She was on maternity leave until May. She then started to edit her new novel (more about that later).#

What sort of research she went into for health issues within the book, such as Cancer and MS?

She wanted to not get into Hollie’s appointments too much to get a balance. There were many drafts and some were more involved than others. There were 4 people who were ill. She wanted more of an introduction to each illness. MS she was fairly familiar with beacause she takes part in the MS Readathon in every year in Ireland.
She wanted to introduce a brain tumour so Hollie was watching a young man going through the same thing.
She thoughtfully pointed out that everyone doesn’t experience the same thing in every illness. She didn’t want to be vague or wishy-washy, but also not too caught up in it. She wanted to concentrate on some of the hope.
She also talked candidly about emphasemia, which is in the book too, as her grandmother had it and had smoked all her life. She talked how there was still humour, even though she was going round with an oxygen tank near the end of her life and wanted some of the humour to come through, which she does well.

From Writing PS I Love You and so many years later, Postcript. How was it for you to write the sequel?

She was never going to write Postcript as she was perfectly happy with how it ended and PS. I Love You was a huge success. PS. I Love You made her and she didn’t want a sequel to break her. She also likes writing different books year on year.
In 2012 she thought about the things that you do for people you’re going to leave behind, so got inspired to write a story from the opposite perspective of PS. I Love You and also then from the perspective of people about to say goodbye and the preparations. She really wanted to put Hollie in it and look at it from Gerry’s perspective. She then had to find the seeds she planted in PS I Love You, like sunflower seeds within that book.
She talked about how it was really challenging to write. In Postcript she has to look at the letters again and looking at the positives and not so and wanted to address how there was conflict between them.
She started to write before she told her publishers to see if she could and felt emotional enough about it, which she did.

Who did you write the book for?

She wrote it for her and those who really love PS I Love You and had it in mind that so many people loved that book. She also looked at the tone of the book and also show the writer she was then and the writer she is now, but without taking too many wild leaps, like in her short story collection, and went back to the humour and sweet tone of PS I Love You.

How did you feel when Postcript went out to readers?

She said that a lot of people have read it before-hand and tries not to get hung up on that, but hopes it is better than the first novel.

The members of the PS I Love You Club. How did you decide which problems to bring into the club and are there any you thought of and discounted?

I wanted to have different illnesses. She knew from the beginning she wanted a mother and the Will idea. Geneka is her favourite. She wanted a mother and a Will and having her want to learn to write letters for her child.

Film

Postcript will be made into a film. Hillary Swank emailed Cecelia wanting to read Postcript. She will be in the film because she said of all the films she has made, PS I Love You is mentioned the most and everyone involved in that film say the same thing. The same production team and writer will be involved again in the film. She has a lot to juggle from the book and the PS. I Love You film.

What author inpires you in your work most of all?

She reads fiction and loves crime fiction, especially Karen Slaughter and Lee Child and Jane Casey. She loves One World Publications because they publish and translate from all over the world. She also loves poetry, such as those from Sarah Cross. She also reads YA novels.
If she ever wrote a crime novel, she would write golden-age crime novel, not the forensic side.

Her next novel is called Freckles, due in autumn 2021. It’s works around the theme that comes from a phrase “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
It’s about a character who is very logical and straightforward parking-warden. She hears this expression and starts to look at the people around her and wonders if she wants to be the average of those five people and if she could curate her life in who she wants to be. So, she reaches out to certain people to see if she can be the average of those.
There is also a lot going on in her life that makes her want to do this.’

Postcript is published in paperback on 1st October.

Postscript pic

#BookReview by Lou of The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley @MsAmeliaHenley @HQstories @RandomTTours #TheLifeWeAlmostHad

The Life We Almost Had
By Amelia Henley
Rated: 5 stars *****

Amelia Henley Banner

Romance can be beautiful and come when you least expect it, but can bring so many twists and turns. Elegantly written, this romantic fiction bring uplifting and heartwarming to despair and heartache all with a large pinch of hope and courage that is quite the page-turner as it becomes ever more absorbing and an addictive read.

Thanks to HQ Stories and Random Things Tours for inviting me onto the blog tour and for providing such an elegant and gorgeous physical copy of The Life We Almost Had.
Read further for the blurb and full review.

The Life We Almost Had Cover

Blurb

This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.

Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.

Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences.
 
Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out…

A beautiful and emotional love story that asks, how far would you go for a second chance at first love? Perfect for fans of The Man Who Didn’t Call and Miss You.

The Life We Almost Had cover with flowers.jpg

Review

Each chapter takes readers to Anna, Adam and Oliver in this beautiful, purposeful, romantic story of life.

Anna and Adam meet in unconventional circumstances, when love strikes.
It shows in a believable, honest way how relationships can break-down, but gives a kind of hope that second chances can occur.

Ann was supposed to have gotten married, but was dumped only two weeks before and can’t help but look up her ex-fiance’s Facebook Page. Nell, her best friend, is a wise soul, who tries to help her out with this compulsion, in urging her to unfriend him and taking her mind off things in the best ways possible, until an incident, whilst swimming. It’s all written with the upmost believeability and with so much that women, who have experienced having a bad relationship experience, will be able to relate to. The water scene is also descriptive that you can totally imagine what it would be like in a difficult situation. What happens next, is when Adam comes in, being all brave and handsomely masculine, with a romantic idealism. It’s enough for even the most confident of swimmers to not mind being in challenging circumstances; not when the chivalrous Adam is about anyway.

A holiday romance that is so spontaneous that it captures and wraps you up with love as the conversation of Anna and Adam as they click together are just sublime, about life, university and the truth of not being a high flyer, which in itself is so refreshing and dreams, such as Anna wishing she was a writer and Adam wanted to travel.

It’s so incredibly heartwarming and uplifiting and Adam is sure to be the man of every woman’s dreams.

It isn’t all plain-sailing though as unknown things like the possibility of endemetriosis starts to show and so does some of the stress and tension that it can cause in a relationship. Being unable to conceive is a hard-hitting subject, that is written with such realism, but altogether with the strife, heartbreak and the romance intertwined, makes rooting for this couple easy, as the likeable groundwork to Anna’s and Adam’s personalities has already been done, earlier in the book. The way the effect of this issue affects both men and women is balanced so well and adds an understanding to the book, that endemetriosis emotionally affects both in a couple. It’s a pleasingly mature way of observing this in the writing as it would be so easy to write from just a female perspective. It is also, surprisingly thought-provoking at how couples can feel and can end up.

There’s a twist to the tale and things take a heartbreaking turn for Adam, which makes for a story of so much hope as he becomes unwell and it becomes even more of a page-turner, with a change of pace and urgency to continue.
The way scientists look at patients and the way partner’s do is highlighted well, with the contrast of the cold, hard medical experiement to push whatever boundary and the warmth, human touch of a partner who see a human-being much more. It’s strong and again, honest. This in turn, introduces Oliver Chapman and also hynotherapy for Anna.

There’s a spiralling, unravelling that appears in Anna’s and Adam’s lives in unconventional ways, that then made, my memory anyway, cast back to the swirling water near the beginning, whether it was intentional or not, it’s cleverly written. RIght to the end, it’s an enthralling book that is heartwarming and uplifting and this will sustain any reader through what becomes utter despair and heartbreaking for the characters.

It is so worth reading the utterly heartbreaking author’s note at the end to understand why this book was written and to know why there is such a sense of heartbreak within this wonderful book that covers just about every single emotion.

There are then questions for Book Clubs.

I took a read of an excerpt from the next book, I am very intrigued to see how that unfolds too as it gets off to a brilliant start.

The Life We Almost Had BT Poster

#BookReview by Lou of #NewBook – Just Like You by Nick Hornby @nickhornby @VikingBooksUK @PenguinUKBooks

Just Like You
By Nick Hornby
Rated: 5 stars *****

Excellent observations and a whole mix of life, romance and politics and everything you would expect from Nick Hornby within his fabulously astute writing style. It’s all brought together to make a great story in Just Like You, with relatable characters.

Thank you very much to the publicist at Viking Books for allowing me to review Just Like You.

Blurb

Lucy married just the sort of man you might expect: a university graduate who runs his own business. Unfortunately he turned out to have serious dependency issues.

Joseph is shaking off the memory of his last date, a girl who ticked all the right boxes and also drove him up the wall.

On an average Saturday morning in a butcher’s shop in North London, Lucy and Joseph meet on opposite sides of the counter. She is a teacher and mother of two, with a past she is trying to forget; he is an aspiring DJ with a wide-open future that maybe needs to start becoming more focused. Lucy and Joseph are opposites in almost all ways. Can something life-changing grow from uncommon ground?

Nick Hornby’s brilliantly observed, tender and brutally funny new novel gets to the heart of what it means to fall headlong in love with the best possible person – someone who may not be just like you at all.

Review

What an opening paragraph!!! It’s powerful, enigmatic and thought-provoking, all with one question that is posed in Spring 2016.

Lucy and Emma are characters so many women will be able to relate to as they talk about things you only would with a best friend. Lucy is on the look out for a man, encouraged by Emma. Written down, the list of attributes and desires in someone in the male species of humans, is so funny! True and to the point, but full of wit, when it’s actually in written. The atmosphere is jovial to begin with and gets deeper as the book progresses, whilst the writing shows Nick Hornby has observed people very well and all is written so naturally, in a way that these people could be within your own street.

It’s an interesting observational book that takes readers into the world of blind dating and society quirks of schooling and the private and comprehensive systems, that Nick Hornby gets spot-on. 

There’s also a comprehensive look into society when it comes to attitudes of sport and race through the butcher – Joseph and his dad and other events that have happened politically. At the heart of it all however, is a moving and deep romance that also covers a considerable age-gap, which I feel works well is quite refreshing to read about, since this is a book that covers a lot of what is happening in the world and has very nicely also not shied away from this too.

Moving back to the dating. there’s also the conversation within the book that consist of how people view each other about who is dating who, in terms of skin colour and the way words are phrased. It’s a deep story. Somehow, I expected it to be a romance with deep undertones. It’s such an emotional book with plenty of humour. It’s also about how you think a person is very similar to you would be the one, without a doubt, and yet, it doesn’t always work out like that and sometimes complete opposites really do attract and shows very honestly that all is not always simple when it comes to that tug of the heart-strings. It has a solid realistic story of romance, not one that’s so unachievable and yet desireable all the same like in the movies, but romance that isn’t always so perfect and this is what makes it all rather compelling and so likeable and want to get to know more and more about the characters lives.

It’s written well, as there are clearly emotive points being made, but the plot of the story as a whole is rather like an honest observation of society and bravely doesn’t hold back in its astuteness. 

#BookReview by Lou of emotionally, beautiful #newbook – Butterflies By D.E. McCluskey @demccluskey1 @dammagedpro1 #ContemporaryFiction #RomanticFiction

Butterflies
By D.E McCluskey
Rated: 5 stars *****

Life can be beautiful, but also delicate. As delicate as a butterfly’s wings, as Olivia Martelle is about to find out as life shows her that as things take off, there are unexpected twists, in this beautifully, emotionally written book.
Thank you to D.E. McCluskey for the opportunity to review.

See below for the blurb and full review as well as a buy and social media links below.

Butterflies.jpg

Blurb

Olivia Martelle has it all. She’s young and beautiful and has just had her fairy-tail wedding to the man of her dreams, the man who makes the butterflies in her stomach swoop and swirl. Life is looking rosy indeed.

Then, a cruel twist of fate changes everything. Her future looks to be torn away from her. Her husband is incapacitated and every day seems to be a continual battle with her sister-in-law, who she is convinced, hates her.

Her beautiful blue butterflies have turned to black.

A desperate mistake, leads her onto a path that she doesn’t want to tread, and her life begins to spiral out of her control. 

Olivia is about to find out that butterflies don’t beat for everyone…

Review

Sensual, Emotional, Fragile, like the wings of a butterfly.
If you’ve ever thought of taking life for granted, you quite possibly won’t after reading this beautiful, yet heart-wrenching book, where the characters have it all until life changing events happen. One minute, life is all fluttery and beating like an active butterfly, the next, it is just as fragile as those silky wings.

I read the book in a day. It hooks you into the characters lives so easily and the need to know how it ends is a necessity, this is done with aplomb and I am more impressed than I thought I would be. The plot has depth and twists and turns and Olivia, allthough most definitely flawed, is a strong woman.
Butterflies, blue, silky winged butterflies feature throughout and are an intelligent way of representing feelings of nerves and love as the wings flutter, when all is well, turning black when life changes.
The writing all appears to be done with sensitivity and care.

Olivia Britt, a determined, sassy character, who’s wedding day it is in Geneva, experiences the butterflies of love in many different ways. The flutter of the wings of a butterfly is a clever use of describing not just the pre-wedding nerves, but also the lovemaking. This is sensual and passionately written.
Distaster strikes when they are driving along… The lovely, light atmosphere of love and joy changes as Olivia and Paul find themselves in hospital. The way it changes so dramtically comes across well and as strongly as the romantic scenes before. It shows, like a butterflies wings, how fragile life can be, as family, such as Angela – Paul’s sister meet in a hospital as unexpected events start to occur that has an impact and consequences on everyone’s lives.

The colourful butterflies from the beautiful blue before are described as turning black.
I like this as a depiction a lot, how the butterflies are still used, even when life isn’t as it used to be. It’s just as powerful.

Life gets even more complicated when Angela attempts to become more controlling in her agenda to gain everything. I think people will recognise that this can happen within families. People will have to give it a read to see if it is resolved or not.

The emotions around Paul on the wedding night and when he is in hospital are realistic and convey the love and turmoil strongly, including when Richard, Angela’s husband comes more into the scene and life becomes more tangled.

There are beautifully written flashback sequences to the wedding day and how the tender, silky winged butterflies reacted.

I absolutely recommend this book. It’s one you will find yourself needing to find out if the butterflies can ever return and flutter with the rhythms and beats of life ever again.

Links

Buy Link : Amazon

Social Media Link: Facebook Page

Twitter @demccluskey1                        @dammagedpro

#BookReview by Lou of emotionally, beautiful #newbook – Butterflies By D.E. McCluskey @demccluskey1 @dammagedpro ContemporaryFiction

Butterflies
By D.E McCluskey
Rated: 5 stars *****

Life can be beautiful, but also delicate. As delicate as a butterfly’s wings, as Olivia Martelle is about to find out as life shows her that as things take off, there are unexpected twists, in this beautifully, emotionally written book.
Thank you to D.E. McCluskey for the opportunity to review.

See below for the blurb and full review as well as a buy and social media links below.

Butterflies.jpg

Blurb

Olivia Martelle has it all. She’s young and beautiful and has just had her fairy-tail wedding to the man of her dreams, the man who makes the butterflies in her stomach swoop and swirl. Life is looking rosy indeed.

Then, a cruel twist of fate changes everything. Her future looks to be torn away from her. Her husband is incapacitated and every day seems to be a continual battle with her sister-in-law, who she is convinced, hates her.

Her beautiful blue butterflies have turned to black.

A desperate mistake, leads her onto a path that she doesn’t want to tread, and her life begins to spiral out of her control. 

Olivia is about to find out that butterflies don’t beat for everyone…

Review

Sensual, Emotional, Fragile, like the wings of a butterfly.
If you’ve ever thought of taking life for granted, you quite possibly won’t after reading this beautiful, yet heart-wrenching book, where the characters have it all until life changing events happen. One minute, life is all fluttery and beating like an active butterfly, the next, it is just as fragile as those silky wings.

I read the book in a day. It hooks you into the characters lives so easily and the need to know how it ends is a necessity, this is done with aplomb and I am more impressed than I thought I would be. The plot has depth and twists and turns and Olivia, allthough most definitely flawed, is a strong woman.
Butterflies, blue, silky winged butterflies feature throughout and are an intelligent way of representing feelings of nerves and love as the wings flutter, when all is well, turning black when life changes.
The writing all appears to be done with sensitivity and care.

Olivia Britt, a determined, sassy character, who’s wedding day it is in Geneva, experiences the butterflies of love in many different ways. The flutter of the wings of a butterfly is a clever use of describing not just the pre-wedding nerves, but also the lovemaking. This is sensual and passionately written.
Distaster strikes when they are driving along… The lovely, light atmosphere of love and joy changes as Olivia and Paul find themselves in hospital. The way it changes so dramtically comes across well and as strongly as the romantic scenes before. It shows, like a butterflies wings, how fragile life can be, as family, such as Angela – Paul’s sister meet in a hospital as unexpected events start to occur that has an impact and consequences on everyone’s lives.

The colourful butterflies from the beautiful blue before are described as turning black.
I like this as a depiction a lot, how the butterflies are still used, even when life isn’t as it used to be. It’s just as powerful.

Life gets even more complicated when Angela attempts to become more controlling in her agenda to gain everything. I think people will recognise that this can happen within families. People will have to give it a read to see if it is resolved or not.

The emotions around Paul on the wedding night and when he is in hospital are realistic and convey the love and turmoil strongly, including when Richard, Angela’s husband comes more into the scene and life becomes more tangled.

There are beautifully written flashback sequences to the wedding day and how the tender, silky winged butterflies reacted.

I absolutely recommend this book. It’s one you will find yourself needing to find out if the butterflies can ever return and flutter with the rhythms and beats of life ever again.

Links

Buy Link : Amazon

Social Media Link: Facebook Page

Twitter @demccluskey1                        @dammagedpro