The Illegal Gardener by Sara Alexi is a story about love and friendship and of opening your heart in ways you may not have thought possible. It is the first in The Greek Village series and the books focus on someone different in each book so it would be easy enough to read them in any order but I’ve already got the second one in my clutches and ready to go. LOL. I listened to the audiobook of The Illegal Gardener which is narrated by Suzanne Heathcote and she does an amazing job with this story. She made me feel as though I was right there in that small Greek village experiencing all the sights, sounds, and food. I just loved it in audio!
Juliet is at a crossroads in her life. Depressed after a divorce she decides on impulse to sell her home in England and move herself into a dilapidated farmhouse in a small Greek village leaving everything else behind. Her sons think her a bit crazy but she’s ok with that. She is able to live in the house and slowly work on restoring it but she finds the outside work, particularly the garden, too much for her to handle on her own. Yet she wants to restore the garden to the former beauty she knows is lurking underneath all the stuff that has just been thrown out there over the years. Despite not being entirely comfortable with hiring casual laborers she sets out to do just that and meets Aaman. Aaman is in Greece illegally having come from Pakistan. He has come to find work and earn enough money to take home to his wife and other villagers so that they can buy the harvester that they desperately need. This harvester will hopefully enable them to escape the clutches of poverty they are in. He is happy for the work that Juliet offers him.
While this may seem straight forward it is anything but that. At first Juliet is uncomfortable having Aaman there and she really doesn’t know how to act around him. Certain things she does out of politeness don’t seem to be received all that well. For Aaman he feels out of his depth. He isn’t used to this country or its ways and many of the things that Juliet does only serve to make him feel more useless. As summer unfolds and the two spend more time with each other they begin to slowly learn and understand more about how the other feels. They discover they have more in common than they ever thought. More importantly they learn that friendship, even between two people who are very different both in culture and background, can blossom and flourish.
I loved this book and the audiobook is truly wonderful. If you are an audiobook listener be sure to add this one to your list and be taken away to a tiny Greek village and into the lives of two very wonderful characters. Highly recommended!
Source: Review copy was received from Audible for an honest review. No compensation was received.
Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall was inspired by research into the actual Miramont Castle in Manitou Springs, Colorado. This is a haunting story that will send shivers up your spine. I listened to the audio version and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was my first time listening to narrator Emily Durante but it won’t be my last. She brought the chilling atmosphere of this story to life perfectly.
As a young girl Adrienne lives with her family in the countryside of France. Adrienne isn’t your typical child though as she is a clairvoyant – a clairvoyant with the ability to see the secrets of those around her. Needless to say that in the 1800’s this was frowned upon and Adrienne was quieted more than once when she thought to speak aloud what she was seeing. Only one person understood Adrienne and that was her grandfather but even he told her that it was best to keep it to herself just before he passed otherwise she could put herself in a lot of danger.
As time passes Adrienne still has her visions but the only person she shares them with is her governess Lucie. Lucie decides to keep track of Adrienne’s visions in a journal that she keeps well hidden… but not well enough. Adrienne’s Aunt Marie finds the journal that is of course full of dark secrets about Adrienne’s own family. Secrets that could threaten to destroy Marie and her son Julien and she isn’t about to let that happen. Marie manages to convince Adrienne’s mother that it would be best for the girl to accompany her to America to live with her and her son Julien, a priest, in his big castle in Manitou Springs. While Adrienne thinks she’s going to America to start a new life her Aunt Marie has much different intentions… evil intentions.
The hours I spent listening to this novel flew by for me. I’m not sure how it translates into print but the audio really brought the time and place alive for me. The writing is beautiful and descriptive and with Emily Durante’s narration it was perfect for me. I also love Gothic novels and a good ghost story will always top my list. As a note to some of my readers there is some disturbing content that some may find offensive.
Recommended for those who enjoy those haunting, chilling ghost stories that stay with you even after you turn that last page.
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Source: Digital review copy provided by the publisher for an honest review. Audiobook from personal library. No compensation was received.
Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer is a story that is beautiful, tragic, and hopeful. I hardly know how to put into words the effect that this book had on me but I know that it will linger in my memory for years to come. It is one of those books that makes you reflect on your own life; on how you live and on who and what is most important to you. I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Kirby Heyborne, both of who I’ve listened to before. They are both incredible narrators and they portrayed the emotional complexity of this novel perfectly. I can’t remember the last time I felt this strongly about a book and I’ll be honest with you – parts of it are really heart wrenching but there is also such a strong thread of new beginnings, love, and family. This book tops my list of favorites for this year and truthfully I don’t see any others surpassing it for me.
Five Days Left chronicles the lives of two families and the events that shape only five days. Both are battling circumstances beyond their control and the only link between the two is an online support forum that two of them participate in and have become friendly because of. This may seem disjointed but it isn’t. The author weaves these two story lines together seamlessly and they very much compliment each other. On one hand we have Mara Nichols who is in her early forties with a very successful career as a lawyer … until the day she receives the most devastating news of her life. She has been diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease and she knows that her life as a wife, mother, and career woman will eventually come to a grinding halt. On the other hand we have Scott Coffman, a teacher, who along with his wife have been fostering eight year old Curtis as his mother is in jail. Scott and his wife are expecting their own child soon but still Scott struggles with the knowledge that one day when the boy’s mother gets out of jail he will be forced to give up this boy he loves so much.
The characters inhabiting this novel are some of the most memorable I’ve met in a book. Mara is understandably angry. Her plan for her life is gone. There is no cure for Huntington’s Disease and she will only get worse. She begins to exhibit symptoms that humiliate her and her young daughter making things even more difficult for her. My heart hurt for this woman and I could literally feel her anger and pain at the hopelessness of her situation. Scott is a wonderful character. He is a kind, caring man always looking to help young people where he can and he’s fallen hard for Curtis. He loves being a dad to this little boy and it shines through in every page. I’m not going to spoil this book for anyone who might read or listen to it so I’m not going to say where the five days left scenario fits in but it does for both families. I think this is one of those books that would make a perfect pick for a book club. I would have loved to have someone to discuss it with as I was reading. I’m sure there would be no shortage of discussion topics with one of the most important being what would you do with your life if diagnosed with a terminal illness. It certainly made me think.
Heart breaking, hopeful, and beautifully written, Five Days Left is a novel that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Highly, highly recommended!
Source: Library copy.
The Girls of Mischief Bay is the first in the Mischief Bay series by Susan Mallery and what an awesome beginning! I can hardly wait for the next book to come out. I really loved this book and the premise of the strong bonds of female friendships despite differences in age or lifestyle. The Girls of Mischief Bay is about women and the everyday good and bad things in our lives that can either elate us or devastate us. I laughed, I cried, I loved.
The setting of Mischief Bay is lovely and more than once I wished I was a resident there. The three women the novel focuses on – Nicole, Pam, and Shannon – are all women that a reader can find themselves relating to in one way or another and I liked them all even though I didn’t always agree with some of their decisions. What I liked most and envied was the wonderful and supportive friendship the three shared.
Nicole is in her thirties and married with a young son. She owns a dance/exercise studio called Mischief in Motion and that is where the women originally met. Out of the blue her husband decides to quit his job and write a screenplay. This entails no longer supporting his family, caring for his son, or doing much around the house. Nicole is left trying to juggle working full time with caring for her son and home. She doesn’t think it can get much worse… but she might be wrong.
Shannon is almost forty and made the decision long ago to focus on her career instead of a personal life but now she’s wondering if she made the right decision. She questions it even further when she finally meets a man she feels is the answer to all she’s ever wanted. Can it really all be so right and perfect? Not likely…
Then we have Pam who is fifty and at the point in her life where her children are all gone and she’s wondering what to do with herself. She loves her husband of thirty years and their life together but she wants more for them. They need to spice up their life and one of the routes she takes to do this left me laughing. But… there is always a but.
I know I’ve said it already but I loved this book – every page. I was so drawn into the lives of these women that I literally felt the joy and pain that each of them felt. The Girls of Mischief Bay will take you on an emotional journey with three women who you won’t soon forget. Highly recommended!