The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain.

I make no secret of how much I adore all of Heidi Swain’s books and her new one definitely did not disappoint. I was so pleased to find out that the setting had returned to the beautiful Nightingale Square….although I have loved immersing myself in all of her books and their various settings! It is so clever the way she weaves all the characters together, and it feels like the tiniest detail is never forgotten.

The Winter Garden focuses on the story of Freya, a brilliant gardener who suddenly finds herself in need of a new job after the death of her former boss and close friend. A chance meeting with Luke, who has featured in the other Nightingale Square books, takes Freya to the square and her new life begins with plenty of twists and turns along the way. I found myself wanting to give some characters some choice words at certain points when they tried to interfere! I love that as a reader of Heidi’s books we get to be reacquainted with characters that feel like old friends and it is great to find out what they have all been up to. This time we get to meet the mysterious Finn, a character that I really liked for not looking like the archetypal hero in a story – he has long flowing hair for a start!

I have always described Heidi Swain’s books as a lovely cosy read – somewhere to escape to with a blanket, a cuppa and biscuits on a cold or rainy day, and The Winter Garden definitely does not disappoint. The perfect antidote to everything that we are all going through right now.

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

This is the story of Sam and Duncan – two people both trying to start fresh and make new lives for themselves for very different reasons. They are linked together due to knowing each other before their lives took very different turns. Sam is the librarian at The Kempner School and Duncan arrives as the new principal – strict, almost-military like and hellbent on ensuring the security of the school.

This story unfolds in such a beautiful way and I would definitely describe it as a page turner – I was absolutely hooked wanting to uncover the secrets of the main characters and they were written in such a lovely way that I really found myself rooting for them and the whole school community. Sam is much more complex than she first seems and I loved the journey that she went on, coming to terms with how her health condition didn’t need to define her and most importantly learning to allow herself to be loved.

Duncan was equally as complex for very different reasons and I did get emotional when finding out the reasons for his new attitude – maybe that’s due to being a primary school teacher myself and realising how real the situation he found himself in could potentially be!

There were so many moments in this book that I found myself laughing out loud – this is due to the way the character’s were written – they seemed so real. I don’t know if it was the author’s intention to provide comedic moments but the conversations after Duncan’s hospital visit were particularly humorous!

I would highly recommend this book as a page turner with a lovely story of love and friendship at its heart.

Family for Beginners by Sarah Morgan.

The blurb states:

When Flora falls in love with Jack, suddenly she’s not only handling a very cranky teenager, but she’s also living in the shadow of Jack’s perfect, immortalised wife, Becca. Every summer, Becca and Jack would holiday with Becca’s oldest friends and Jack wants to continue the tradition, so now Flora must face a summer trying to live up to Becca’s memory, with not only Jack’s daughter looking on, but with Becca’s best friends judging her every move…

The more Flora tries to impress everyone, the more things go horribly wrong…but as the summer unfolds, Flora begins pushing her own boundaries, and finding herself in a way that she never thought she needed to.

And she soon learns that families come in all shapes and sizes.

My thoughts.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a huge fan of Sarah Morgan books and this one has more than lived up to my expectations – after The Christmas Sisters this is definitely my second favourite of her books. I love the way Sarah always explores the intricacies of family relationships and puts women at the centre of her stories – I now see that this is a theme in all her books and I love it. Although the book blurb primarily mentions Flora as the protagonist, I found myself becoming much more engaged in the stories of Izzy, and Clare in particular… fact I was desperate to discover more about Clare’s back story with so many snippets given throughout the story…please Sarah Morgan write a book with her as the focus!! I felt there was a very natural progression of the family dynamic and relationship between Flora and Izzy, which definitely made it all the more believable.

This was a brilliant, well-thought out and excellently written book – it has definitely got a place on my shelf of books I would read again.

The Saturday Morning Parkrun by Jules Wake.

The Saturday Morning Park Run

This is the story of two women.
One old, one young.
One looking for new adventures. One looking for a purpose.
Both needing a friend.

And this is how, along with two little girls in need of a family, a gorgeous stranger, and a scruffy dog, they bring the whole community together every Saturday morning for love, laughter and a little bit of running…(well, power walking).

Some people come into your life when you need them the most.

Author Bio

Jules Wake announced at the age of ten that she planned to be a writer. Along the way she was diverted by the glamorous world of PR and worked on many luxury brands and not so luxury brands. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it provided her with the opportunity to hone her writing and creative skills penning copy on a vast range of subjects from pig farming and watches, sunglasses and skincare through to beer and stationery. 

She writes best-selling warm-hearted contemporary fiction for One More Chapter as Jules Wake and under her pen name Julie Caplin, she writes the Romantic Escapes series. 

Between them, the two Js have written fourteen novels, The Saturday Morning Park Run being the latest.

Social Media Links –

Twitter @Juleswake

Instagram: juleswakeauthor

My thoughts
As soon as I heard about this blog tour I knew I had to take part – I am an avid runner and (pre lockdown) Parkrun was a fixed date in my diary each Saturday morning, so I was intrigued about this book as soon as I saw the title and read the blurb… it is safe to say I absolutely loved this story. The story starts with Claire and Ash meeting for the very first time, and I was really pleased to see how much the two main characters changed as the story went on as I did not immediately warm to them due to certain reasons! I loved the journey they went on together, and the introduction of Hilda was the perfect tonic for the whole story – despite being the oldest character I loved how she was responsible for breathing new life into Claire and Ash. Poppy and Ava were brilliant characters too and it was clever how their characters sometimes mirrored Claire’s relationship with her own sister.The introduction of the parkrun idea really moved the story along, and I could tell that Jules Wake must be an avid parkrunner too with her knowledge of it – she perfectly encapsulated the spirit of it, and as I have met some of my best friends through parkrun I could completely relate to the new friendships that were made along the way. This was such a lovely read – it left me with a lovely warm sense of positivity – I want there to be a second book! I would highly recommend this – you never know, it could inspire you to attend a parkrun when they start up again!

A highly recommended four stars from me.

The Last Charm by Ella Allbright.

Thank you to netgalley and the author for allowing me to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the book: When Leila loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake. So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

My thoughts:

I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to read this book as I completely fell in love with it and it is a story that has stayed with me constantly since I finished it. I felt every emotion whilst reading it, some quite overwhelmingly at times and I am not afraid to say that at certain moments I sobbed. But that just shows what a powerful story Ella Allbright has written, and it definitely surprised me with the depth of emotion I felt towards characters and situations. I have discovered lately that I really enjoy reading books where the characters challenge me, particularly those I don’t always immediately warm too. It’s as if they have to work even harder to get into my affections, and the two main characters certainly managed that by the end…..Leila more so as I felt she went on an even bigger journey of self-discovery than Jake. I always got the feeling that even though we meet the two characters when they are just children, Jake was always going to turn out alright, whereas Leila needed to find more awareness of herself and those around her.

I loved the way that the story followed the two main characters as they are growing up, meaning it had to span over such a pivotal time in anyone’s life, moving from childhood to adolescence, and into the rigours of adulthood. Ella Allbright very effectively encapsulated all the emotions that everybody goes through growing up.

I would easily give this story 5 stars – particularly so for the last quarter of the book. It was such a stunning read, with plenty of twists that I didn’t see coming, times when I just wanted to shake the characters to see what we as readers could see, and for the depth of emotion it evoked in me.

I would also like to say that having spoken to the author on Twitter as well she is just a thoroughly nice person, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

The Last Charm will be published on 18th August 2020 but I would highly recommend you preorder it now.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

About the book:

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met. Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution. Leon occupies the one bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers, and of course the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rule book out the window.

My thoughts:

I loved this book – I thought it was so funny and very well written, but also with a layer of depth to it that I wasn’t at first expecting. Tiffy and Leon were both brilliant characters, I loved the form of communication they developed and thought it was unique and fresh – something I had not seen in a book before. Unusually for me, I liked both characters equally the same……however I developed an impassioned hatred for the character of Justin – I think I shouted at my kindle at one point as he was annoying me SO much. Testament however to the brilliant way that he had obviously been written.

I would highly recommend this book as one that does keep you on your toes – every time I thought there would be a happy ever after there was another twist or something/one else (Justin) came along and spoilt it. I have immediately bought Beth O’Leary’s next book as a result of reading this one.

Definitely 5 stars from me.

The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn by Freya Kennedy.

A gorgeous new romantic comedy about taking chances and realising your dreams. Libby Quinn is sick and tired of being sensible.
After years of slogging her guts out for nothing at a PR company, she finds herself redundant and about to plough every last penny of her savings into refurbishing a ramshackle shop and making her dream of owning her own bookshop become a reality.
She hopes opening ‘Once Upon A Book’ on Ivy Lane will be the perfect tribute to her beloved grandfather who instilled a love of reading and books in her from an early age.
When her love life and friendships become even more complicated – will Libby have the courage to follow her dreams? Or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

Buy it on Amazon here:

My Thoughts

I have always said that my dream job would be to own a bookshop so this book appealed to me from the very first chapter.  I instantly liked all the characters as well and wanted to become a part of the Ivy Lane community myself – I could vividly imagine the pub and the corner shop – it took some time to remind myself that it wasn’t me in the story!

 I loved this book, it was such a lovely summery read and had everything I like in a story – a nice plot, a bit of romance and a lovely ending.  I loved the way her grandfather was threaded throughout the whole story and how her reason for opening the bookshop remained the same throughout.  The other characters were all equally likeable, and Jo in particular just seems like someone everyone should have as a friend. 

I would highly recommend this book if you are a book lover.  It was very clever that each new chapter was named after a different book, which has definitely added to my ‘to be read’ list!

Author Bio

Freya Kennedy lives in Derry, Northern Ireland, with her husband, two children, two cats and a mad dog called Izzy. She worked as a journalist for eighteen years before deciding to write full time. When not writing, she can be found reading, hanging out with her nieces and nephews, cleaning up after her children (a lot) and telling her dog that she loves her. She has met Michael Buble and even kissed him. It was one of her best ever moments. She believes in happy ever afters.
Freya Kennedy is a pen name for Claire Allan, who also writes psychological thrillers.

A Patchwork Family by Cathy Bramley.

This story follow the main characters of Gina, Dexter, Violet and Bing. Gina is recently divorced and is beginning to learn that taking risks both personally and professionally can be a good thing. She lives on the edge of The Evergreens, a beautiful old mansion house. When its future is threatened she has to find a way of achieving the one thing she really wants, despite a range of obstacles getting in her way…some much closer to home and more personal than she first realised. This is a beautiful story about love, hope and ultimately who your family really are.

I first came across Cathy Bramley when I read the short story “We’ll Meet Again” and it instantly made me want to read A Patchwork Family. This was a lovely feel-good book and it just made me feel happy. I really liked the natural progression of all the characters and it all felt very real as a result. I liked how there were plenty of entertaining moments and it created a really nice pace for the story…..there were points where I genuinely didn’t know if there would be a happy ending and it made me root for all the characters even more.

This was the perfect spring-time read and I really warmed to Gina, wanting the very best for her. As a result of reading this book I instantly downloaded some more books by Cathy Bramley, and cannot wait to immerse myself in her world of writing again!

Brunch and Other Obligations by Suzanne Nugent.

This book is about three “frenemies” – Nora, Christina and Leanne. They all knew each other when they were younger, but are properly reunited due to the death of their mutual best friend Molly. They have to navigate their way through their own personal grief by attending monthly brunches – one of the final requests that Molly has made of them. As the brunches progress and the story moves on, they start to re-evaluate their decisions and paths that their own lives have taken. They are all incredibly different from each other and this does serve as a sticking point in them being able to form any sort of relationship, however maybe being different to each other is not such a bad thing after all?

I really enjoyed seeing the dynamic between the three women and I was particularly intrigued by Nora, and I think I enjoyed her story the most – she seemed to me to have the biggest journey through a readers’ eyes – although I’m not sure she would have realised that herself! The whole story idea was a really interesting concept and I liked the chatty narrative style being consistently in the first person. It felt like we were almost being allowed to watch these lives from afar, with a narrator picking up on key points.

I would definitely recommend this book. I am always intrigued how the death of a close friend has an impact on those left behind and I felt that this book summarised it all really well.

Thank you to Netgalley for giving me this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the White Dress by Paul Barrell

Thank you to the author for sending me a review copy to read in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the White Dress centres around the main character Paul, who has a recurring dream / vision / nightmare about being on a ship with a mysterious girl. He knows that something happened but his memories refuse to be unlocked. This leads him down a path of discovery where he uncovers that his dream was infact true, and it leads to a series of events where he meets acquaintances from his past.

I thought that this story had a lot of potential and I was intrigued to find out the truth and discover whether his dreams were just dreams, or whether there was some truth to his visions….I think I was just hoping for a bit more depth throughout. I liked the way it shifted from 1974 to 2005 and the more modern day storyline did flow nicely – I was just waiting for some bigger cliff hangers, but that’s just my personal opinion.

I would however recommend this book if you like a bit of mystery in a story – and the fact that it was believeable gave it a good sense of credibility.