Kew Gardens this Autumn

Kew Gardens is without doubt one of the most well known and highly regarded botanical institutions in the World. A long and rich history, coupled with the passion, knowledge and expertise make this a truly wonderful place to visit.

This autumn, there are of course a multitude of fascinating attractions at Kew, but one of my personal favourites is the newly restored and recently re-opened Temperate House.

Front Entrance of the Temperate House

The main atrium of the house is split into location specific beds, with three additional smaller wing houses for Africa, Western Australia and Asia.

Map showing bed layout.

The temperate house makes for an impressive display, with everything from palms, to cycads and tree ferns. It is truly an exotic plant lovers delight. As the glass house has only recently re-opened, it is effectively a new glass house. Having undergone a five year restoration, it is a testament to all the people who have worked so hard to get it open again.

View of the main atrium

Here is an impressive view of some of the tree ferns in the Australian bed in the main atrium.

Tree ferns (Dicksonia Antartica)

There are as previously mentioned a vast amount of attractions to visit at Kew Gardens, this is a truly a gem. With all the glasshouses, exceptional borders, woodlands and rock garden. Not forgetting of course the Pagoda, Treetop Walkway, Sackler Crossing etc. This makes a magical day out for everybody, not just plant enthusiasts.

Pieces of Me by Natalie Hart

Pieces of Me by Natalie Hart is a very interesting read. I’d not read many books about the war in Iraq but this one examines deeply the emotional cost of war on relationships.

The scenes set in Iraq are described extremely well and really brought the setting to life. Hart paints a wonderful picture with words of the evocative beauty of the light which is overshadowed by the panic and brutality of sudden attacks.

Relationships are key to this novel. Emma, a British woman, is the protagonist who is working in Iraq to help people reach asylum in the USA. She is a good person who feels like she is trying to make something good out of a bad situation. She falls in love with Adam, an American soldier. The story focuses on the love that they have for each other and how this can be changed by circumstances.

Emma moves to Colorado Springs to set up home with Adam. She is lonely and struggles to adjust so gets a job in an art shop where she meets a lady who asks her to mentor an Iraqi refugee family. Adam is called back for one last tour of duty in Iraq. The brutality of his time there is conveyed and a terrible incident causes him to come back with severe PTSD and alcoholism. How can their relationship survive is one of them is fostering such demons that they are not getting help with? This is when reality sets in.

This book is very important as it shines a light through the lens of a story on the very real impact of PTSD and the lack of help for returning soldiers etc. The book also feels very realistic when it is set in Iraq. This may be due to the author’s own experience of living there. The beauty of the light, the sand, the sunsets, the food, all are well evoked and have an authentic feel.

The character of Emma is very well drawn as she is career focused but confused and lonely in America. She loves Adam deeply but she is still figuring out who she is and what she wants. Adam is a complex character who is warm and quiet at first, but the incident in Iraq changes him massively.

The secondary characters such as Kate, Zainab and Hassan are also lifelike and help show the conflict of Emma’s character. Is it possible to be friendly with both sides during a war? Kate’s character in particular has a very black and white view of the world that could be challenged. Emma’s shows that it is better to look at the world more objectively and realises that not everyone wants war and there are victims on all sides of such conflicts.

Overall, this is a great read and I recommend that you take a look for yourself.

In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards

In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards is a thrilling tale of suspense with a paranormal twist. I had not read any of Edward’s previous books but was aware that he was a very successful author on Amazon Kindle. As a budding author I was keen to see the techniques that he used whilst writing the book.

In Her Shadow tells the story of Jessica and her sister Isabel (who died in an accident four years previously). Jessica’s daughter Olivia starts to say that she can see and talk to Isabel and begins to reveal secrets that she could not possibly know. Jessica starts to become afraid and starts to re-evaluate the circumstances around Isabel’s death and look to discover whether Isabel really did die in an accident or could she have possibly been murdered? Also, could it be possible that Isabel’s ghost is present and communicating with Olivia?

The story is told in present day and flashback narration from both Jessica and Isabel’s point of view. Edwards is very good at providing a real sense of momentum to the story. There are lots of cliff-hangers and the paranormal element makes it more unique and consequently, it stands out among the other thrillers in the market for this reason.

The characterisation is very good also. You’re not sure who to trust and I did not expect one of the characters to be very different from how I had initially imagined them to be. Isabel’s character is quite different to Jessica’s, she is privileged and has an easy life financially but a challenging and difficult career. Jessica’s husband is an interesting character as you do wonder if he is guilty or innocent of her murder. There is also a suitably chilling ending which is perfect for this time of year!

If you like thrillers and good reads generally, then you’ll love Mark Edwards In Her Shadow.