Friday, April 14, 2017

Literary Friday: The Forbidden Garden

Happy Good Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope that each and everyone of you has a blessed and meaningful day.

This week I read the most delightful book entitled The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick.  We've been planning spring plantings all week, especially since we lost so much shrubbery during last year's drought, so the timing of reading this book couldn't be more perfect!

About The Forbidden Garden

• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (April 4, 2017)

“Captivating [...] Herrick weaves a rich tapestry of family lore, dark secrets, and love.” —Brunonia Barry, New York Times bestselling author of The Lace Reader and The Fifth Petal

Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Sarah Jio, comes a lush imaginative novel that takes readers into the heart of a mysterious English country garden, waiting to spring to life. Every garden is a story, waiting to be told…

At the nursery she runs with her sisters on the New England coast, Sorrel Sparrow has honed her rare gift for nurturing plants and flowers. Now that reputation, and a stroke of good timing, lands Sorrel an unexpected opportunity: reviving a long-dormant Shakespearean garden on an English country estate.

Arriving at Kirkwood Hall, ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife Stella, Sorrel is shocked by the desolate state of the walled garden. Generations have tried—and failed—to bring it back to glory. Sorrel senses heartbreak and betrayal here, perhaps even enchantment. Intrigued by the house’s history—especially the haunting tapestries that grace its walls—and increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, Sorrel sets to work. And though she knows her true home is across the sea with her sisters, instinct tells her that the English garden’s destiny is entwined with her own, if she can only unravel its secrets…


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Ellen Herrick

Ellen Herrick was a publishing professional in New York City until she and her husband moved to London for a brief stint; they returned nearly twenty years later with three children (her own, it must be said). She now divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a small town on Cape Cod very much like Granite Point. Find out more about Ellen at her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Review:

Nothing speaks more to my inner geek than a book about a walled Shakespeare garden.  I've been looking forward to reading The Forbidden Garden for a long time because I knew I would love the garden, magical realism, family intrigue, and romance.  I was not disappointed, and if you enjoy these genres you will love it, too.

Sorrel Sparrow is a well-drawn, unique character.  Her intrepid determination and her knowledge of medicinal plants certainly make her an asset in restoring the long-neglected garden.  But what I love more about her is her willingness to take a chance on love with Stella's brother Andrew.  I enjoyed their love story along with the family curse and suspense.  Andrew has a great personality, although it's rare that I've wanted to wash an Anglican priest's mouth out with soap. Apparently he picked up some bad habits in boarding school that never were righted, but in spite of his potty mouth, he's an endearing character, too.

The big mystery of the book is why the garden is cursed, and why it can make Kirkwoods ill. There are hints aimed at solving the mystery in the estate's beautiful tapestries.  As an artist, I love tapestries so I enjoyed reading Herrick's detailed descriptions of them.  I also enjoyed the descriptions of the garden's plants and their medicinal purposes.  Herrick makes the garden come alive with her descriptive passages of the garden's restoration.  She not only uses sight, but smell, hearing, and touch.  She also cleverly includes an illustrated map of the Shakespeare garden at the beginning of the book.  Again, the timing is perfect!  I can't wait to get my hands in the soil this weekend and plant.

NOTE:  This is a stand alone book, but Herrick wrote a previous book about the Sparrow sisters, and I'm ordering it today:

Here are just a few of the plants in Kirkwood Hall's Shakespeare Garden:




Firewitch dianthus


I hope you enjoy your Easter weekend.  Go out and plant something after reading The Forbidden Garden!

Discosure:  I received a copy of The Forbidden Garden from the publisher via TLC book tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Literary Friday: Miss You

About Miss You

• Hardcover: 448 pages
• Publisher: Harper (April 4, 2017)

"If ever a couple was ‘meant to be,’ it’s Tess and Gus. This is such a witty, poignant, and uplifting story of two lives crisscrossing over the years, with near miss after near miss. . . . I couldn’t put it down."—Sophie Kinsella

A wryly romantic debut novel with echoes of One Day that asks, what if you just walked by the love of your life, but didn’t even know it? "TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE." Tess can’t get the motto from her mother’s kitchen knickknack out of her head, even though she’s in Florence on an idyllic vacation before starting university in London. Gus is also visiting Florence, on a holiday with his parents seven months after tragedy shattered their lives. Headed to medical school in London, he’s trying to be a dutiful son but longs to escape and discover who he really is. A chance meeting brings these eighteen-year-olds together for a brief moment—the first of many times their paths will crisscross as time passes and their lives diverge from those they’d envisioned. Over the course of the next sixteen years, Tess and Gus will face very different challenges and choices. Separated by distance and circumstance, the possibility of these two connecting once more seems slight. But while fate can separate two people, it can also bring them back together again. . . .


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photograph by Leanne Dixon

About Kate Eberlen

Kate Eberlen grew up in a small town thirty miles from London and spent her childhood reading books and longing to escape. She studied Classics at Oxford University before pursuing various jobs in publishing and the arts. Recently, Kate trained to teach English as a Foreign Language with a view to spending more time in Italy, a country she loves and has visited many times. Kate is married with one son. Find out more about Kate at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Review:

Miss You is excruciatingly frustrating because the reader knows that Tess and Gus belong together. Their paths cross, and either they miss each other or one of them fails to act on instinct.  Meh!  Plus the reader also knows that their relationships with other people are doomed to fail.  Fate must be one frustrated lady with these two characters!  Gus is my favorite.  His family has suffered a horrible tragedy, and he evolves from a timid, awkward young man into a confident, caring prince of a man. He is the perfect romantic hero by the end of this book.  *le sigh*

Tess and Gus both tell their stories from their points of view alternately.  It's fun to figure out all the times they miss out on finding each other.  After their initial "cute-meet" in Italy the summer before starting university, their next supposed chance is doomed as Tess's mother fights and eventually succumbs to breast cancer.  Tess stays home to care for her Kindergartner sister rather than attending university in London.  The next section told from Gus's point of view reveals that the room across from his in the dorm becomes available at the last minute according to the lucky girls who had been waitlisted for the room.  The book continues along in a similar fashion, and it truly is poignant considering all the time Gus and Tess miss being together.


One thing I loved most about the book is Tess's relationship with her sister Hope.  Hope has autism, and Tess is a fantastic parent to her.  I appreciate books that depict autism in such a positive light. Kudos to Kate Eberlen!

This book was difficult for me to read because breast cancer is a major character in Tess's narrative. My best friend is battling breast cancer currently, and she has had many unexpected complications. Unfortunately all of us know women who have fought cancer with determination, courage, strength, and grace just like Tess.


Eventually, Fate successfully pushes these two together, and the ending is fantastic, much more than satisfying.  Miss You is a fun read, and it made me wonder about chance meetings and whether or not anything in life is truly random.  I highly recommend it, and it would make a fun Spring Break or Easter Break read.


I received a copy of Miss You from the publisher via TLC book tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill