The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman

Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books
Rating: ★★★★

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.

When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family—a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability—Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.

Review:

Thank you to Viola Shipman, MIRA Books and NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I read this as a part of the 2020 Spring Reads Blog Tour.

There was a lot about this novel that I was unsure about when I read the synopsis. This isn’t my usual book, but I figured I’d give it a try. I’m not someone who usually likes war stories or time pieces. However, this wasn’t really anything like that. It was back-and-forth, but in a good way!

This was my first Viola Shipman novel. I never would’ve thought to read her before, but I’m really glad I did. This intrigues me for future novels by her as the writing was extraordinary. I really enjoyed her point-of-views between characters and that made me enjoy them even more. Iris lost her husband in WWII and her daughter to polio. This is where she built herself inside of her garden and didn’t want to talk to anyone. She did this for a long time before she meets Abby. Abby’s husband comes back from the Iraq war and is no longer than man he was before he left. Now living next door to each other, these two women have something in common even if Abby didn’t lose her husband physically. These two women bond and find a relationship unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

I loved this story. It was the epitome of a feel-good novel. It was very heartwarming and makes you feel hope that things are actually like that. Abby, Iris, and Abby’s daughter, Lily, truly stole my heart. It was special to see that the relationship and friendship between Abby and Iris that bloomed despite their age gap.

The gardening point-of-view in this story is impeccable. I have a “black thumb”, but I absolutely loved learning about all of the different types of flowers and plants that Iris and Abby talk about was spectacular.

The reasons why I didn’t give this novel a five-star rating were two different things. First, there were some parts of this book that was very righteous and almost “holier-than-thou”. I can see why it would be like that, but sometimes it seemed to be too much. Second, this book seemed longer than it should’ve been. I really enjoyed this story, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like it was drug out at some parts.

Overall, Viola Shipman has definitely caught my interest. I would be open to reading her other books as this one had very “feel-good” energy. This could absolutely be one of the top “general fiction” novels of 2020.



Twenty-one Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

Publication Date: November 19, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: ★★★

1. Daniel Mayrock loves his wife Jill…more than anything.
2. Dan quit his job and opened a bookshop.
3. Jill is ready to have a baby.
4. Dan is scared; the bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent.
5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble. He’s ashamed.
6. Then Jill gets pregnant.

This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances—he wants to become someone.

1. Dan wants to do something special.
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary.
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure.
4. Of living in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.

Dan is also an obsessive list maker, and his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press & Matthew Dicks for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Twenty-one Truths About Love is about a man named Daniel who quit his teaching career to open a bookstore. He’s going through a lot with his marriage, losing money and more when he finds out that his wife is pregnant. To help him cope with his life, he makes lists in a diary that displays all different types of areas in life. He figures out what he needs to do and his finances and how he will make it all work. Things are rough for Daniel, but you see just how his mind is working through the lists he creates.

There was a lot to love about this book. Daniel, as a character, was hilarious and had a lot of funny moments in his lists. With this character, you could see the changes in him. He tried to be funny when his life was “falling apart” and it was easy to see that. It reminded me of how we really are as humans. We put on this show of how we are alright on the outside when we are struggling on the inside. I think this is an important reminder for the author to point out, and I’m appreciative of Matthew Dicks doing so.

The book itself got a little tiring in the list format. It’s unique and I was definitely interested in the list aspect of it, but after a while, I got a little bored of it. It was a lot of numbers and titles and it was kind of hard to get through by the end.

The other issue that I had with this book was that I began reading this book because of the synopsis that Daniel was the owner of a bookstore. I feel as though the author only referenced books a couple of times and barely talked about Daniel’s bookish side of life a handful of times.

I think that this novel would be very promising if there were some paragraphs thrown into the mix with the lists. As someone who worked in a library for 10 years, I would’ve liked to see more of Daniel’s bookstore life. However, I understand that this was about Daniel and the journey he had on becoming a father, etc. If you are a lover of general fiction, I’d pick this one up!

 

Rainy Day Kisses by Debbie Macomber

Publication Date: August 1, 1990 (Republished May 29, 2014)
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Rating: ★★★

“She was a woman on the rise. Susannah Simmons had a five-year plan for career success, and it didn’t include falling in love with her next-door neighbor. Nate Townsend was undeniably attractive, and he obviously had money, but he seemed to lack ambition. He stayed home, baking cookies and flying kites, while Susannah struggled up the corporate ladder. She resented the way he questioned her values – – and made her question them, too. Perhaps she had given up too much in pursuit of her career goals: family and fun – – and Nate Townsend’s love.”

Review:

This was my first Debbie Macomber read. I recently downloaded an app that you can connect with your libraries and has so many different selections of ebooks and audiobooks. I saw this and thought that the synopsis sounded great. If I love anything when it comes to books, it’s the “next door neighbor” narrative. The thought of moving into somewhere and having your neighbor be so romantic that you fall for them? Yes. Please. It’s so unlikely, but a girl can dream, right?

The characters were written well. I thought that the characters were really in tune with themselves. There were times that they said something and I cracked up out loud at how funny they were. I think Macomber knows how to write a character to get the reader to feel like they are actually in this story. She knows how to embody their emotions. I liked that the most about this book.

There were parts of this book that fell flat. The narrative is the reason why I picked this book. There were times where I felt like putting this book down because it got pushed off the narrative and I wasn’t sure when it would get back on track. This unfortunately made me drop the rating.

Lastly, this book seemed pretty vanilla. Like I said, this was my first Debbie Macomber, and I’m not sure if that is how her writing style is with all of her books. I felt like everything was good and simple. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, personally, I like to have a little angst or a little sultry factor in a book. I think this book was good, just a little plain for my taste.

Overall, I would definitely would give another Debbie Macomber book a chance. I want to find out if all of her books are simple, easy reads. I work in a library where her books are extremely popular. Therefore, I want to see what all the hype is about.

 

Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan

Publication Date: November 21, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Rating: ★★★★

“No one knows why Teddi Lerner left her hometown, but everyone knows why she’s back.

Twelve-year-old Shayna― talented, persistent, and adorable―persuaded “Aunt Tee” to return to Chance, Ohio, to photograph her father’s wedding. Even though it’s been six years since Shay’s mother, Celia, died, Teddi can hardly bear the thought of her best friend’s husband marrying someone else. But Teddi’s bond with Shay is stronger than the hurt.

Teddi knows it’s time to face the consequences of her hasty retreat from family, friends, and, her old flame, but when she looks through her viewfinder, nothing in her small town looks the same. That’s when she truly sees the hurt she’s caused and―maybe―how to fix it.

After the man she once loved accuses Teddi of forgetting Celia, Teddi finally admits why she ran away, and the guilt she’s carried with her. As Teddi relinquishes the distance that kept her safe, she’ll discover surprising truths about the people she left behind, and herself. And she’ll finally see what she overlooked all along in Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan.”

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Amy Sue Nathan, and St. Martin’s Griffin for allowing me to read this book before the publication date in exchange for an honest review. 

Teddi Learner returns to Chance, Ohio after six years to photograph her best friend’s husband’s wedding. Miles is the groom and he’s getting remarried after his first wife, Celia, passed. Teddi is returning as a promise to Miles and Celia’s twelve-year old daughter, Shayna. Now that Teddi has returned, she sees everything that has changed and who she missed.

There were many things about this book that grabbed me right away and there were things that left me hanging. The synopsis intrigued me because I love the forbidden romance and the mystery of why a girl left her old town to find a new life. It was like a Lifetime series and I was very interested.

The characters were awesome. I absolutely adored Teddi and Shay. Shay was probably one of my favorite characters I’ve read. As someone who is extremely close to her mother, Shay’s character resonated with me in a sense of how I would be if I lost her. I could feel the connection and the heartbreak through Shay. Teddi had a lot of great moments too. Her dialogue was probably my favorite thing about this book.

One of my favorite narratives are the “small town” stories. I think the author did a phenomenal job when giving the reader a feel of just how small the town was. There were characters introduced like the childhood best friend and other family members. I felt like I was in the small town of Chance and I was meeting these individuals through the eyes of Teddi.

There were times that this book slowed down for me. I had to push through because I knew it would pick back up. I had to put it down sometimes, and do something else before picking it back up because it just got boring. However, when pushing through, it got much better and I had a good time reading this one. I am very interested in giving another book by Amy Sue Nathan a try.

 

 

The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti

Publication Date: September 26th, 2017
Publisher: Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)
Rating: ★★★

“Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing.

“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…

Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”

In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.

Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alicia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alicia to wonder if her husband has a second life.

And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.

Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.

Told from the alternating points of view of Alicia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget, The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists and turns.”

Review: 

Thank you to NetGalley, Kate Moretti, and Atria Books for allowing to read this before the publication date in exchange for an honest review.

I will be completely honest, I picked this book solely from the cover. The spooky and mysterious cover dragged me to it right away. I had a feeling that this would be a good one.

The beginning of this book will leave you with a sense of “what is going to happen next”. From the last page of the prologue, I was hooked. There was something fishy going on, and there is a wonder of what will go on in the following chapters. Or will you have to wait until the end?

The characters were interesting to say the least. My favorite character had to be Alecia. My mother is a special education teacher so I see the struggles that an autistic child and their mother has to go through. I feel like the author did a phenomenal job with making both characters real and relatable. All of the characters really developed, especially Bridget. Bridget was another character that I really felt that connected well with the reader. There were times where I feel like I would have to go back and read because there are four different characters going on at the same time, but that’s okay sometimes. Each character gave more to this story.

There was a lot of book that was answered, but there was a lot also left unanswered. There were interesting things about this because I liked the fact that I could think about what could’ve happened. This is where Kate Moretti did a great job making this not only a mystery, but a psychological thriller as well.

Overall, this book was very good. Kate Moretti’s writing style is absolutely something I can get into with other stories of hers. I think I will take the time to pick another one of hers up!

 

 

I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

Publication Date: October 1st, 2017

“When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it—until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls—beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard—has disappeared.

A year later, Anna is still missing. Ella is wracked with guilt over what she failed to do, and she’s not the only one who can’t forget. Someone is sending her threatening letters—letters that make her fear for her life.

Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night—and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own.

Someone knows where Anna is—and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ella.”

Review:

Thank you to Kindle First for allowing me to read this book before the publication date in exchange for an honest review. 

This book was not for me. I tried and tried to get into it, but I struggled a lot. I finished it and I feel like I didn’t really even read anything. I was pretty disappointed with all of the things that went on through this story.

First, I had a really hard time with the characters. The characters intrigued me in the beginning with the story and how things were progressing, but as I got further and further in, I couldn’t find a character that I liked or related to. There were so many point-of-views that I found myself confused and having to restart.

Next, I didn’t really find this book to be all that grasping or mysterious. By the end, I was a little confused and the last chapter just tried to bring everything together. The writing definitely wasn’t my favorite thing, but it did have it’s moments.

Lastly, I think this book would have worked better if there was a difference in either the choice of main character or the plot. I think that this book had a lot of different promising qualities. There just wasn’t enough mmph in the characters or plot for me to thoroughly enjoy this book.

Rating: ★★

Midnight At the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Publication Date: June 13th, 2017

“When a bookshop patron commits suicide, it’s his favorite store clerk who must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the ‘BookFrogs’—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.
But when youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: Trinkets and books, the detritus of a lonely, uncared-for man. But when Lydia pages through his books, she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?
As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago—and never completely left, as she discovers.” 

Review: 

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore was good! I enjoyed this spooky story since Halloween time is coming up! 

Lydia was so awesome. Her character went through so many things in her life and showed that she could be smart and powerful when it came to using her brain! She figured things out that I would never be able to. 

There are a lot of surprises in this book, especially towards the end. Some might say it was predictable, but I didn’t think so at all! It took me until it was right under my nose to understand what happened. 

I really enjoyed this story. It was something that I had never heard of or read before. I love the setting. Bookstores and libraries are my absolute favorite settings! Matthew Sullivan did a great job writing about the details of the bookstore. He wrote things that really grabbed my attention like “The sound of books hitting the floor from the second floor.” 

Overall, this book was spooky and suspenseful. I’d really recommend it to anyone especially those who like mysteries. 

Rating: ★★★★

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

Publication Date: August 5th, 2014

“When Tate Collins meets airline pilot, Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are our out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her. Never ask about the past. Don’t expect a future. They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it all. Hearts get infiltrated. Promises get broken. Rules get shattered. Love gets ugly.”

Review: 

Wow. This book broke my heart, mended it back together, and repeated this cycle throughout the entire book.

I’ve read Colleen Hoover before, and she just gets it. She gets feelings and emotions, and she makes the reader feel along right with each character. In every Colleen Hoover book I’ve read, I’ve cried on more than one occasion. I’m a very emotional person when it comes to books and movies, but if her books don’t make you feel anything, I think there might just be something wrong.

This story is something unlike anything I’ve ever read. It was raw and emotional. The originality of this story is why I liked it so much. It felt real because of the reactions and demons that each person held onto. I’ve read stories with angst and heartbreak, but this was enough to make my chest hurt for a few hours.

Miles, Miles, Miles. I want to bring him up because he was my favorite character in this book. He went through so much in his life and learns how to deal with it. Even though in life, it’s hard to figure out what to do and when, but it was great to see that he could try and figure things out. I’m glad I got to read something like this. It was pretty motivational.

There were so many things that I loved about this book. If I had to list them all, this review would easily be over the necessary amount of words. I would give this book higher than 5 stars if I could.

Rating: ★★★★★