Twelve Days of Winter: Crime at Christmas by Stuart MacBride

A Christmas read with a difference. . .

Twelve Days of Winter by Stuart MacBride

ABOUT THIS BOOK: On the First Day of Christmas…

Twelve Days, twelve stories

Billy Partridge wasn’t really cut out to be a cat burglar, but Dillon hadn’t really given him any option. It was either do the job, or come up with thirteen grand by Thursday … or have both his legs shattered. And the leg thing didn’t even write off what he and Twitch owed Dillon, just deferred the interest. Come the 15th of January there’d still be thirteen thousand to pay.

Then there’s newbie after-school drug-dealer Brian, who probably shouldn’t be taking advantage of the job’s fringe benefits; Philippe, a chef with anger-management issues and a lot of very sharp knives; Mr Unwin, the undertaker with the golden touch; and Lord Peter Forsythe-Leven, MSP, learning the hard way that having it all just means you’ve got so much more to lose…

Twelve short stories, all set in Oldcastle, all taking their twisted inspiration from the classical Christmas song. Murder, betrayal, drugs, sex, and tinsel.

MY THOUGHTS: Although this is definitely not my favorite by Stuart MacBride, it is still well worth reading. It is blackly humorous, seedy Scottish Noir. Not one character has a redeemable feature. It is filled with criminals, pedophiles, and other generally unsavory, detestable characters. Just my sort of Christmas book!

The stories are all linked together, although this is not immediately obvious, by the various characters and their greedy machinations. The first story is by far the best and sets the tone for the following eleven tales.

🎅🎅🎅.5

THE AUTHOR: Stuart MacBride (that’s me) was born in Dumbarton — which is Glasgow as far as I’m concerned — moving up to Aberdeen at the tender age of two, when fashions were questionable. Nothing much happened for years and years and years: learned to play the recorder, then forgot how when they changed from little coloured dots to proper musical notes (why the hell couldn’t they have taught us the notes in the first bloody place? I could have been performing my earth-shattering rendition of ‘Three Blind Mice’ at the Albert Hall by now!); appeared in some bizarre World War Two musical production; did my best to avoid eating haggis and generally ran about the place a lot.

Next up was an elongated spell in Westhill — a small suburb seven miles west of Aberdeen — where I embarked upon a mediocre academic career, hindered by a complete inability to spell and an attention span the length of a gnat’s doodad.

And so to UNIVERSITY, far too young, naive and stupid to be away from the family home, sharing a subterranean flat in one of the seedier bits of Edinburgh with a mad Irishman, and four other bizarre individuals. The highlight of walking to the art school in the mornings (yes: we were students, but we still did mornings) was trying not to tread in the fresh bloodstains outside our front door, and dodging the undercover CID officers trying to buy drugs. Lovely place.

But university and I did not see eye to eye, so off I went to work offshore. Like many all-male environments, working offshore was the intellectual equivalent of Animal House, only without the clever bits. Swearing, smoking, eating, more swearing, pornography, swearing, drinking endless plastic cups of tea… and did I mention the swearing? But it was more money than I’d seen in my life! There’s something about being handed a wadge of cash as you clamber off the minibus from the heliport, having spent the last two weeks offshore and the last two hours in an orange, rubber romper suit / body bag, then blowing most of it in the pubs and clubs of Aberdeen. And being young enough to get away without a hangover.

Then came a spell of working for myself as a graphic designer, which went the way of all flesh and into the heady world of studio management for a nation-wide marketing company. Then some more freelance design work, a handful of voiceovers for local radio and video production companies and a bash at being an actor (with a small ‘a’), giving it up when it became clear there was no way I was ever going to be good enough to earn a decent living.

It was about this time I fell into bad company — a blonde from Fife who conned me into marrying her — and started producing websites for a friend’s fledgling Internet company. From there it was a roller coaster ride (in that it made a lot of people feel decidedly unwell) from web designer to web manager, lead programmer, team lead and other assorted technical bollocks with three different companies, eventually ending up as a project manager for a global IT company.

But there was always the writing (well, that’s not true, the writing only started two chapters above this one). I fell victim to that most dreadful of things: peer pressure. Two friends were writing novels and I thought, ‘why not? I could do that’.

Took a few years though…

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Twelve Days of Winter: Crime at Christmas, by Stuart MacBride, narrated by Ian Hanmore, published by HarperCollins Publishers, via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2622131022

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Friday Favorite – Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Looking for something to read over the weekend ?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming ‘read me’?

Take a look at my Friday Favorite. It may be new. It may be old. It may be written by a famous author, or by someone you have never heard of. But wherever in the spectrum it falls, it will be a book that is special to me, one that has captured both my imagination and my heart. This one definitely did both. 😍

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

EXCERPT: ‘Are you . . . intact, Miss Armstrong?’

‘Intact?’ She had to think for a moment what he meant by that. (She thought of the Latin. Untouched.) ‘Oh,’ she said eventually. ‘Yes, sir.’ She blushed all over again, dreadfully hot suddenly, despite the weather. It wasn’t a question you asked if you weren’t intending to do something about it, was it? Although in her imagination this act had involved dim lighting, satin sheets, perhaps flutes of champagne and a discreet veil drawn over the crude mechanics of the act, mainly because she still had little idea of what they were.

Also, on a practical level she had imagined a bed, not a hillocky field beneath a thundery sky that was the color of putty. An uncomfortable tussock was sticking into her left buttock. She could see dark clouds moving in from the west and thought, ‘we’re going to get rained on.’ Out of the corner of her eye she saw her hat blow away. ‘Oh,’ Juliet said again.

He leant closer. Very close. He did not look as attractive from this distance, in fact he looked not a little unlike an otter. She closed her eyes.

Nothing happened, so she opened them again and found him gazing steadily at her. She remembered that he had learnt mesmerisim when he was younger and she thought, Good Lord – was he hypnotizing her? She felt quite woozy all of a sudden, although she supposed she was now officially starving so it was no wonder. And then he was on his feet, pointing at the sky and saying, ‘Look, a sparrowhawk!’

Was that it then?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past forever.

Ten years later, now a radio producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.

MY THOUGHTS: If I could be any writer in the world, I would wish to be Kate Atkinson. I love her inconsequential thoughts, her irreverence, her wit. Her characters are so very real to me that I hesitate to close the book for fear of losing my new found friends (a hangover from my childhood). They have a depth and richness that is seldom seen, another trademark of Atkinson’s writing, and yet they are very ordinary people, stumbling through their lives much like most of us do.

Transcription is very much a character driven novel. If you are waiting for something to ‘happen’, you may well be very disappointed – after all, Juliet can’t even lose her virginity – although, of course, things do happen; mundane, everyday things that a naive eighteen year old imbues with perhaps more (or less) significance than they merit.

And underneath all the mind-numbing boredom of typing endless reports, in triplicate, of coping with carbon stained fingertips, of drinking endless cups of tea and the odd cocktail, there is slowly revealed a tale of espionage, counter-espionage, double agents, and a lot of people of whom we are never quite sure whose side they are on.

Classic Atkinson.

And please do read the author’s note. Transcription’s origin is rooted in reality, and Atkinson talks about the documents that started her on this wonderful journey, and the people behind them. She has also provided me with a whole raft of new reading material that I would never otherwise have heard of. Thank you Kate.

💖💖💖💖💖

THE AUTHOR:
Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and she has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.

Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.

When Will There Be Good News? was voted Richard & Judy Book Best Read of the Year. After Case Histories and One Good Turn, it was her third novel to feature the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who makes a welcome return in Started Early, Took My Dog.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of Transcription by Kate Atkinson, published by Doubleday. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2348239063

 

The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz

The Lucky Ones

EXCERPT: Allison gasped, then held a hand over her mouth in shock.

“Allison?” McQueen had been retreating during the conversation, but now he rushed to her. “Honey, what’s wrong? You look like you’re going to faint.”

“It’s from my brother,” she breathed. “This is from my brother.”

McQueen stared at her like she’d grown a second head in the past three seconds.

“Your brother?” he repeated. “I’ve known you seven years. You never told me you had a brother.”

Allison looked at him with tears in her eyes.

“That’s because. . . I don’t.”

ABOUT THIS BOOK: They called themselves “the lucky ones.” They were seven children either orphaned or abandoned by their parents and chosen by legendary philanthropist and brain surgeon Dr. Vincent Capello to live in The Dragon, his almost magical beach house on the Oregon Coast. Allison was the youngest of the lucky ones living an idyllic life with her newfound family…until the night she almost died, and was then whisked away from the house and her adopted family forever.

Now, thirteen years later, Allison receives a letter from Roland, Dr. Capello’s oldest son, warning her that their father is ill and in his final days. Allison determines she must go home again and confront the ghosts of her past. She’s determined to find out what really happened that fateful night–was it an accident or, as she’s always suspected, did one of her beloved family members try to kill her?

But digging into the past can reveal horrific truths, and when Allison pieces together the story of her life, she’ll learns the terrible secret at the heart of the family she once loved but never really knew.

MY THOUGHTS: This book has received very mixed reviews, but I enjoyed it. This is my first book by this author and I will definitely be reading more from her. Reisz has hit a good balance between drama, suspense and romance.

Seven children, from seven different sets of parents, are raised in the home of a respected surgeon, a single parent with no biological children. Unlikely, yes. But putting that aside, this story of a family reuniting to support the man who raised them, who was their father in every sense but biological, of secrets that slowly come to light, lies that are revealed years after they were first told (and some new ones that are told), suspicion, death, grief and love, captivated me. It is tightly woven, unpredictable and enjoyable.

And I liked the cover. .. I find it hard to resist a book with a creepy looking old house on the cover.

😊😊😊😊

THE AUTHOR: Tiffany Reisz is the USA Today-bestselling author of the Romance Writers of America RITA®-winning Original Sinners series from Harlequin’s Mira Books.

Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Tiffany graduated from Centre College with a B.A. in English. She began her writing career while a student at Wilmore, Kentucky’s Asbury Theological Seminary. After leaving seminary to focus on her fiction, she wrote The Siren, which has sold more than half a million copies worldwide.

Tiffany also writes mainstream women’s suspense fiction, including The Bourbon Thief (winner of the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence Award) and the RITA®-nominated The Night Mark.

Her erotic fantasy The Red—self-published under the banner 8th Circle Press—was named an NPR Best Book of the Year and a Goodreads Best Romance of the Month. It also received a coveted starred review from Library Journal.

Tiffany lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband, author Andrew Shaffer, and two cats. The cats are not writers.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Lucky Ones, written by Tiffany Reisz, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, and published by Harper Audio, via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35083342-the-lucky-ones

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams

If, like me, you are a fan of Fiona Davis, then I think that you will enjoy The Glass Ocean.

EXCERPT: When I wasn’t in a hurry, when I was just strolling or even sitting on a bench, eating a hot dog with ketchup and mustard but no onion, I liked to study them, my fellow New Yorkers. I liked to pick someone out from the crowd, some man in a suit, loosening his tie, checking his watch. I tried to divine his life, his history, the peculiar secrets hidden in his past. Mom used to tell this story about the dinner parties they once had, before Dad left, and how I used to peek through the bannister when I was supposed to be sleeping and watch the guests, and how, in the morning, I would bombard her with questions about them, who was married to whom, who did what for a living, who came from where and had how many siblings. And I used to think this story of hers was true. I used to think I was born for my career.

Now I wasn’t so sure.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: From the New York Times bestselling authors of The Forgotten Room comes a captivating historical mystery, infused with romance, that links the lives of three women across a century—two deep in the past, one in the present—to the doomed passenger liner, RMS Lusitania.

May 2013
Her finances are in dire straits and bestselling author Sarah Blake is struggling to find a big idea for her next book. Desperate, she breaks the one promise she made to her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother and opens an old chest that belonged to her great-grandfather, who died when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915. What she discovers there could change history. Sarah embarks on an ambitious journey to England to enlist the help of John Langford, a recently disgraced Member of Parliament whose family archives might contain the only key to the long-ago catastrophe. . . .

April 1915
Southern belle Caroline Telfair Hochstetter’s marriage is in crisis. Her formerly attentive industrialist husband, Gilbert, has become remote, pre-occupied with business . . . and something else that she can’t quite put a finger on. She’s hoping a trip to London in Lusitania’s lavish first-class accommodations will help them reconnect—but she can’t ignore the spark she feels for her old friend, Robert Langford, who turns out to be on the same voyage. Feeling restless and longing for a different existence, Caroline is determined to stop being a bystander, and take charge of her own life. . . .

Tessa Fairweather is traveling second-class on the Lusitania, returning home to Devon. Or at least, that’s her story. Tessa has never left the United States and her English accent is a hasty fake. She’s really Tennessee Schaff, the daughter of a roving con man, and she can steal and forge just about anything. But she’s had enough. Her partner has promised that if they can pull off this one last heist aboard the Lusitania, they’ll finally leave the game behind. Tess desperately wants to believe that, but Tess has the uneasy feeling there’s something about this job that isn’t as it seems. . . .

As the Lusitania steams toward its fate, three women work against time to unravel a plot that will change the course of their own lives . . . and history itself.

MY THOUGHTS: It always intrigues me when people work together to produce a novel. I always wonder who wrote what, or if they all sit around a table and thrash it out. . . Mostly it seems to work, occasionally it doesn’t, but The Glass Ocean is definitely a success story.

Reminiscent of the writing of Fiona Davis, The Glass Ocean flows seamlessly from one character’s story to the next, from one time period to the next, and back again. The writing is rich in detail. The three women at the centre of this story have hidden depths, their strengths brought to the fore in adversity.

Throw into this mix seduction, subterfuge, Spies, false identities, forgery, romance and infidelity, and you have all the ingredients of a block-buster of a novel.

The three narrators did a wonderful job.

😍😍😍😍

THE AUTHOR: Beatriz Williams is the New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author of The Summer Wives, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, A Hundred Summers, A Certain Age, and several other works of historical fiction. A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA in Finance from Columbia University, Beatriz worked as a communications and corporate strategy consultant in New York and London before she turned her attention to writing novels that combine her passion for history with an obsessive devotion to voice and characterization. Beatriz’s books have won numerous awards, have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and appear regularly in bestseller lists around the world.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Beatriz now lives near the Connecticut shore with her husband and four children, where she divides her time between writing and laundry. (Taken from the author’s website)

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White, narrated by Vanessa Johansson, Saskia Maarleveld and Brittany Pressly, published by Harper Audio, via OverDrive.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2596570681

A Taste of . . . . Tuesday

Today I would like to tempt your reading tastebuds with a little tidbit from For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt, published by Harlequin Mira.

This author first came to my attention with Best Friends Forever, which I absolutely loved! I have been looking forward to the release of this, her second book, which is published today, Tuesday 11 December. Happy publication day!

For Better and Worse

‘And most important, we’d never confess. You’d be amazed how many people break down under police questioning. If you refuse to say anything, refuse even to be interviewed, it forces the police to build a case against you. And if they don’t have any slam dunk evidence, how are they going to do that?’

‘You make it all sound so easy,’ Nat said.

‘Easy, no. I doubt it would be easy to take a life. But I think if you had to  –  I mean, if we had to  – ‘ Will amended. ‘We could absolutely get away with it.’

‘I’m not sure if I should be flattered or be frightened,’ Nat mused.

‘Definitely flattered,’ Will said, smiling his cocky grin that was starting to grow on Nat.

‘Well then.’ Nat raised her glass in a mock toast, as another boom of thunder sounded outside. ‘To our future as criminal masterminds.’

Will clinked his glass against hers. ‘To getting away with it.’

I hope this little taste of For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt, will tempt you to read more of this book .

Happy reading, my friends.

 

 

The Woman Who Kept Everything by Jane Gilley

The Woman Who Kept Everything by Jane Gilley
EXCERPT: CHAPTER 1
The boiling hot water splashed over Gloria’s fingers. ‘Waargh!’

She did a little agony dance whilst she waited for the pain to ease, blowing on her fingers. Damn. She’d need to get outside to dunk her hand in the cold water barrel.

Her oldest friend, Tilsbury, was always harping on about that darned pan; said that using it, without a lid, instead of a kettle, might prove disastrous one day. Gloria wouldn’t buy a kettle, though. Said she didn’t have the money for expensive items like that. Well, her son, Clegg, had given her a credit card for ‘essential items’ but she never went anywhere to use it. In fact, she rarely went out at all. She didn’t really need to.

Today she’d knocked the pan by accident, reaching over to check the potato soup she was cooking for their lunch. These days she was always eating potato soup, on account that she had a large sack of them, out back, that Tilsbury had got from someone in the know. She liked that it could be a cheap nourishing meal when she had onions, carrots and a good stock in it.

But, today, she only had potatoes. Add a bit of salt and it would have to do, she’d thought. Anyway, the hot water for their tea, boiling away in the pan next to the soup, had sploshed onto her left hand as she’d leaned over the grimy stove to stir their meal.

Gloria grunted as she hitched up her Crimplene dress and clambered over the piles of squashed cardboard boxes and magazines, nearly slipping on mouldy teabags, decomposing potato skins, marmalade-smeared crusts and other detritus around the kitchen sink unit. She no longer noticed the stink like rotting cabbage. Empty, dripping or congealed milk cartons, plastic bags and other household rubbish also littered the floor – more obstacles to tackle – in order to get to that cold water barrel, outside by the back door. The original Georgian taps in her kitchen sink had long since seized up. So the only water she could use was in that rainwater barrel, outdoors: for cooking, for occasional washing, for everything really.

But, at seventy-nine, she knew she was getting too old for all this.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: 79-year-old Gloria Frensham is a hoarder. She lives amongst piles of magazines, squashed cardboard boxes, surplus carpet rolls, heaps of towels and knick-knacks littering the stairs. She hasn’t left her home for years, until a loud bang and a sudden smell of singeing sets in motion Gloria’s unwilling exodus from her home…

That day is the start of a journey that will never return Gloria back to her beloved, hoarded possessions, nor to her son’s house to live. For it is the start of her journey to discover life again – and she’s going to make some good friends and defiant decisions along the way, with just one very small suitcase in tow…

MY THOUGHTS: The publicity blurb says, and I quote ‘Heart-warming and poignant in equal measure, this is a story about the loneliness of life, the struggles of growing old, the power of kindness, and the bravery it takes to leave our comfort zones.’, but I felt nothing of this.

It is superficial. There is no depth to either the characters or the plot. I felt no involvement only, briefly, revulsion at the broken tea bags and rotting cabbage leaves that litter the kitchen floor. And it is here that a distinction needs to be made. Most hoarders live quite cleanly. No, I am not a hoarder, except of books. The author is quite correct in that people hoard in response to a sense of loss, but living in squalor, in filth, is something quite different again.

Gloria’s road to recovery is far to quick and smooth, she wavers only twice, resisting temptation both times. After all those years of hoarding she is miraculously cured by a few days of counselling in the rest home? Not likely.

The Woman Who Kept Everything read somewhat like a child’s bedtime story. In my head, it was being read by a very soporific voice, one designed to put me to sleep, and it did. This could have been a brilliantly funny and touching story but, for me, it missed the mark by a very wide mile.

This book is compared with The Lady in the Van and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, both of which I loved. Not even close.

😐😐.5

THE AUTHOR: Jane Gilley has previously self-published five children’s books. The Woman Who Kept Everything is her debut adult novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Woman Who Kept Everything by Jane Gilley for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2598306498

Watching What I Read. . .

Because all my reads last week were short, I managed to fit in an extra two books!

Murder in the Dark (Ishmael Jones, #6)  and

The Woman Who Kept Everything

So watch for my reviews over the coming days.

Currently I am reading

Transcription

Which I am loving. Atkinson writes with a richness of detail that draws me in so that I am ‘there’, in the novel, experiencing everything along with her characters.

I am listening to

The Lucky Ones

Which I am also enjoying. I have a feeling that I know who is behind Allison’s ‘fall’, but I may be wrong. I often am.

This week I plan on reading

Broken Ground (Inspector Karen Pirie, #5)

Alice Somerville’s inheritance lies six feet under in a Highland peat bog – a pair of valuable vintage motorbikes buried by her grandfather at the end of World War II. But when Alice finally organises their recovery, she finds an unwelcome surprise -a body with a pair of bullet holes . . . and Nike trainers. DCI Karen Pirie of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit is called in to unravel a case where nothing is quite as it seems.

Meanwhile an overheard conversation in a cafe draws Karen to the heart of a murder she thought she’d already prevented.

As Karen gets closer to the several truths, it becomes clear that not everyone shares her desire for justice. Or even the idea of what justice is.

I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series, but I love McDermid’s writing.

The Memory

She’ll never forget… I’ll never forgive.

People always notice my daughter, Isobel. How could they not? Extraordinarily beautiful… until she speaks.

An unsettling, little-girl voice, exactly like a child’s, but from the mouth of a full-grown woman.

Izzie might look grown-up, but inside she’s trapped. Caught in the day it happened… the day that broke her from within. Our family fell apart that day, and we never could pick up the pieces.

Another writer that I greatly admire. Her books are always gripping and unpredictable.

Four ARC approvals from NetGalley this week . . .

The Man With No Face

The Lost Traveller (County Cork, #7)

The Parisians

The Thing About Clare

I am looking forward to seeing what you are reading, and what new books you have on your shelves. I do love to indulge in a bit of book envy!

The weather is absolutely beautiful today, as it was yesterday, so I am off to work for a couple of hours, then I plan on spending the remainder of my day in the garden.

Happy reading my friends 💕💕💕💕💕