Winter Bloom by Tara Heavey ~ Review

winter bloom

This story begins when Eva Madigan, recently single and relocated to Ireland with her young son Liam, stumbles upon a long neglected garden. Although she has never successfully grown anything, Eva is drawn to the overgrown walled lot.  After initially rejecting Eva’s request to try to revive the forgotten acre, the icy owner best known for murdering her husband agrees to allow her to attempt the feat. Eva excitedly posts a flyer asking for help from the community and is soon joined by Emily, an odd young introvert; and Uri, a retired tailor with much needed gardening skills – although he denies having much experience. Uri’s son Seth and the elderly owner of the garden, Mrs. Prendergast, soon cannot resist the pull of the garden and join in the efforts.

Through real magic of the garden or simply the shared experience of nurturing it, their personal walls begin to crumble and slowly relationships bloom.

The surface interactions between these five as they coax the plants and flowers and vegetables into existence would have made a pleasant, entertaining read. But the story went much deeper. One by one we learn the heartbreak that led each of them to this place – needing the healing powers of the growing garden to bring them back to life.

I chose this novel as I do most books I select – for a light and entertaining read. This was so much more. The depth, emotion, quality story, and excellent writing make this easily one of my favorites in a long time.

Winter Bloom will go on my re-read shelf, and I am eager to read more from this author.

 

The Lake House by Marci Nault – review

the lake house

When Heather Bregman purchased the little house on the lake, she imagined afternoons in the sun, evenings by a bonfire, and growing friendships with the neighbors in the close knit New England neighborhood.

She quickly realized this was not to be. The neighbors – all over 70, living in the homes they grew up in and having known each other since birth – were not happy to have a newcomer invade their space. Determined to drive her away, the men of the little community pranked her house with cigar smoke, ants, and stink bombs while the women greeted her icily or ignored her completely.

Victoria Rose moved back to her home on the lake hoping to make amends with the only family she had left. Still hurting from her decision to move to California to pursue an acting career over 50 years ago, her childhood friends met Victoria with much the same cold welcome they gave Heather. Two lonely souls with more in common than the vast age difference would suggest, Victoria and Heather quickly became close friends.

Together they navigated the fallout from their personal and profession decisions, both finally learning – to have a friend you must be a friend.

I have to admit I almost put this book down after the first several pages. Jumping from character to character and moving back and forth through time, it was a bit much to follow – and very slow to engage. I am glad I stuck it out. As the chapters passed a lovely story developed, showing that even our most personal decisions can deeply effect those around us, and reminding us that when we think of others instead of ourselves, happiness follows.

Surprising and comical, I laughed out and smiled through the entire book. Definitely a keeper.

The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard ~ Review

the art of arranging flowers

Flowers have the power to heal heart and body, mend broken relationships, bring together new love, and accomplish almost any other miracle or wish of the heart. That seems to be true when Ruby Jewell is arranging the flowers. After an early life filled with tragedy, Ruby uses her bouquets to bring hope, love, and happiness to the residents of small town Creekside, Washington. When all those she has helped through the years decide it’s time for Ruby to find love, amazing things happen.

I love the idea that flowers have power. If the color of the walls of a room can induce a particular feeling and essential oils can alleviate various ailments, then the look, feel, and smell of flowers must have similar qualities.

Although many of the twists and turns were predictable, I still really enjoyed the story.  Likely to be one I read again.

 

 

 

 

Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA by Ellen Meister ~ a review

Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTANothing bonds women quicker than a common enemy.

A film crew’s interest in using the local elementary school as set for the newest George Clooney movie ignites the imagination and brings out the claws of the PTA moms, but more than their fantasies are at stake when they offer to build a much needed stadium for the school as part of the movie set.

Four women with nothing obvious in common join forces to ensure the project moves forward, learning much about each other in the process. Don’t judge a book by its cover, the grass is not always greener, those who live in glass houses… all the common cliches apply – but still delivers a nice blend of humor and tears as they fight to bring the movie to their school, and to support each other through difficult personal struggles.

The story moved fairly slowly through the first several chapters, but gained speed quickly and finished with both predictable and unexpected conclusions. I enjoyed reading it and will keep it on the shelf – this is one I will likely re-read in the future.

 

The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan ~ review

The Good NeighborWhen I read The Glass Wives, Amy Sue Nathan’s first novel, the things that pulled me in were the believability of the characters and real life situations. The same held true in her second novel, The Good Neighbor (with one exception.)  She does a great job of crafting characters that feel as if I already know them, in realistic, familiar situations. Perhaps I am the lucky demographic that fits the mold? Would my twenty-something daughter, or someone a generation or two older, feel the same? I cannot say.

The story starts with Izzy Lane packing up her five-year old’s Spiderman backpack as her ex arrives to pick him up for a weekly sleepover. Amy does a good job of expressing the mother’s guilt – slight relief of having a moment to herself to gather her thoughts, combine with the overwhelming loneliness and sense of loss once he is gone. How do you balance that? How do you incorporate the once again single – aka ‘alone’ – woman, into your life as a mother? First instincts are usually to keep the two worlds separate. That can be difficult. And as Izzy learns, taking it too far can lead to some sticky situations, even to the point of no return.

Early on in the book I started noticing slight similarities to the classic 1945 movie Christmas in Connecticut (although I thought it was just because that is my all-time favorite movie!). I was surprised to learn that the author had gotten some inspiration from the movie. Make no mistake though – this is no remake – this is a story all unto its self.

As much as I enjoyed reading The Good Neighbor, I have to admit two areas that left me unsatisfied. The way Izzy resolved her ‘issue’ seemed overdramatic and unnecessary. Airing the dirty laundry in public just didn’t make sense to me. Pulling the involved parties together to come clean seems more likely, create just as many hard feelings to overcome, etc. The other has to do with Izzy’s neighbor, Mrs. Feldman. I would have loved to have found out if she was ever able to attain her heart’s desire.

All in all, a good story I enjoyed reading. I look forward to meeting Teddi, the catalyst for confusion in Amy’s upcoming third novel.

**I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher, thank you St. Martin’s Griffin!!