Spotlight: Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Congratulations to Francesca Hornak on the paperback release of her novel Seven Days of Us. If you missed reading it last year in hardcover you’ll want to pick it up now!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Berkley Paperback Reprint; October 16, 2018

Publisher’s description: It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
 
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while her older sister, Olivia, deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
 
Their father, Andrew, sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent. But his wife, Emma, is hiding a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.  
 
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

My take: (first posted November 2017)

Seven Days of Us is an entertaining and deceptively light novel about a family. The Birches are an interesting group. Andrew, the father, is a snarky restaurant reviewer for a newspaper. Emma, the matriarch, just wants everyone to have the kind of Christmas holiday she remembers from childhood. Altruistic eldest daughter Olivia is a doctor just returned from relief work in Liberia and the reason for the family quarantine. Younger daughter Phoebe is completely self-absorbed and more than a bit annoyed at being forced to spend the holidays with her family instead of her new fiancé.

Told from the perspective of each family member, plus a couple of other characters, the chapters are short and follow a day-by-day form that made the novel easy to stop and start reading. This was also a great way to lay out the Birch family’s messy dynamics. It ended up being an emotional read for me – that was unexpected and very much appreciated. Recommended to fans of novels about imperfect families. I loved the setting(s) and the holiday-ness to which I think most readers will relate on one level or another.


About the author:

Francesca Hornak is a journalist and writer, whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Red. She is the author of two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects: Middle Class Stuff (and Nonsense) and Worry with Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama.


 

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Spotlight: The Collector’s Apprentice by B.A. Shapiro

 

THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE
by B. A. Shapiro
Algonquin Books / Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Price: $27.95; Hardcover; 352 pages; ISBN: 978-1-61620-358-0

Description: (provided by the publicist)

New York Times bestselling author B. A. Shapiro has made the historical art thriller her own with such novels as The Muralist and The Art Forger, which The Washington Post praised for its “skillful balance of brisk plotting, significant emotional depth and a multi-layered narration rich with a sense of moral consequence.” With THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE—her third, boldest, and best book with Algonquin—Shapiro takes readers to Paris in the 1920s and the ever-fascinating world of Gertrude Stein’s salon and the artists, such as Matisse and Picasso, with whom she surrounded herself. These and other real-life icons are deftly integrated into a gripping mystery involving love, intrigue, murder and, of course, art.

When she is accused of playing a role in a Ponzi scheme perpetrated by her erstwhile fiancé, Paulien Mertens seeks solace and sanctuary in Paris, where she creates a false identity as a Frenchwoman named Vivienne Gregsby. As Vivienne attempts to recover her father’s art collection—stolen along with all her family’s assets—and prove her innocence, the eccentric and wealthy American art collector Edwin Bradley offers her a job. She is soon immersed in the world of expatriates and post-Impressionist art, becoming Matisse’s lover, and traveling between Paris and Bradley’s native Philadelphia, where he is building an art museum. But her exciting new life is abruptly interrupted when Vivienne is arrested for Bradley’s murder.

“THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE is a work of fiction loosely inspired by the lives of the art collector Albert Barnes and his assistant, Violette de Mazia, as well as the history of the Barnes Foundation, which he founded and they both nurtured,” Shapiro explains. From this raw material, she has invented a tantalizing story that draws on extensive research into not only the lives of Barnes and de Mazia, but of the many historical characters in the book. The evolution, principles, artists, and works of the post-Impressionist movement that are central to the story are drawn with particular accuracy and appreciation.

The result, like all of Shapiro’s much-loved work, is a seamless blend of art history set against a wider historical backdrop, and all wrapped in an impossible-to-put-down fictional narrative.


About the Author:

B. A. Shapiro is New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger, which won the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Boston Authors Society Award for Fiction, among other honors. Her books have been selected as Community Reads in numerous cities and have been translated into over ten languages. Shapiro has taught sociology at Tufts University and creative writing at Northeastern University. She divides her time between Boston and Florida along with her husband, Dan, and their dog, Sagan. Her website is http://www.bashapirobooks.com.

Photo credit: Lynn Wayne


Praise for THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE:

“I was engrossed in every twist and turn in this compulsively captivating page turner, all the way until its astonishing denouement. Shapiro has done it again!” —Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us

“Dazzling and seductive, The Collector’s Apprentice is a tour de force—an exhilarating tale of shifting identities, desire, and intrigue set between 1920s Paris and Philadelphia. Shapiro is a master at melding historical and fictional characters to bring the past alive on the page, and in The Collector’s Apprenticeshe has forged an exquisite, multilayered story that maps the cogent and singular fire of a young woman’s ambition and the risks she will take for the sake of art.” —Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Georgia

“Shapiro delivers a clever and complex tale of art fraud, theft, scandal, murder, and revenge. [Her] portrayal of the 1920s art scene in Paris and Philadelphia is vibrant, and is populated by figures like Alice B. Toklas and Thornton Wilder; readers will be swept away by this thoroughly rewarding novel.”—Publishers Weekly

“A seamless blend of art history set against a wider historical backdrop.”—Detroit Jewish News

“B. A. Shapiro is back with a platinum potion of art, love, and scandal, set against the big backdrop of Paris between the wars. If you can put The Collector’s Apprentice down, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am. I read it in one sumptuous sitting. This is a big story, from a big talent.”—Jacquelyn Mitchard, bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean


THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE
by B. A. Shapiro
Algonquin Books / Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Price: $27.95; Hardcover; 352 pages; ISBN: 978-1-61620-358-0 Follow Algonquin books on Twitter at @algonquinbooks or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/algonquinbooks


Spotlight: Christmas at the Chalet by Anita Hughes

CHRISTMAS AT THE CHALET by Anita Hughes

St. Martin’s Griffin; October 16, 2018

Description (provided by the publisher)

It’s the day after Christmas, and Felicity Grant is at a gorgeous ski chalet in St. Moritz for the biggest fashion show of her career. Felicity is a rising star on the bridal design scene, and this is her best collection yet. But when her boyfriend gives her a spa day instead of a diamond ring for Christmas, she has to face the possibility that she may never walk down the aisle in one of her own stunning designs.

And then there’s Nell, the top model headlining Felicity’s show. Nell is planning her dream wedding to her wonderful fiancé with one catch: her divorced parents can’t stand each other and threaten to no-show if the other is there.

Add to that Felicity’s race against the clock to create a special gown for a prestigious bridal salon, and what both girls need is a Christmas miracle. What better place to find one than in the Swiss Alps with its dark forests and sparkling vistas?

But for Felicity it’s hard to recognize a miracle even when it’s right in front of her, and for Nell one miracle might not be enough to fix the past. Can dreams really come true or is that the stuff of Swiss fairytales?


About the author:

ANITA HUGHES is the author of Monarch Beach, Market Street, Lake Como, French Coast, Rome in Love, Island in the Sea, Santorini Sunsets, Christmas in Paris, White Sand, Blue Sea, Emerald Coast, and Christmas in London. She attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program, and lives in Dana Point, California, where she is at work on her next novel.


Early praise for CHRISTMAS AT THE CHALET:

“A breathtaking glimpse into the glittering and magical world of St. Moritz. Part romance, part Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Hughes gives her readers a beautiful story about the meaning of true love, peopled with charming and endearing characters. This is a refreshing novel destined to create cravings for hot chocolate in front of a blazing fire and make us all believe in Christmas miracles.” —Karen White, New York Times bestselling author

 

Christmas at the Chalet is the most sparkling and glamorous of all Anita Hughes’s wise and gorgeous books.” —Nancy Thayer, New York Times bestselling author

 

“The glam of St. Moritz is the stage for this modern fairy tale… Anita Hughes’s Christmas at the Chalet sparkles with Christmas miracles.” —Mariah Stewart, New York Times bestselling author 

 

“In gorgeous detail, Anita Hughes paints a vivid picture of blossoming love amid the backdrop of snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes in the opulent setting of St. Moritz. This enchanting love story will leave you pining for the winter holidays. I loved every page.” —Tracey Garvis Graves, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl He Used to Know

 

“Hughes again crafts a highly readable story of love, hope, and going after your dreams… The detailed setting and winter love story centered on the holidays make it an easy recommendation for romance and women’s fiction fans.” —Booklist

 

“A refreshing setting and characters combine with Felicity’s offbeat occupation to create a sweet story of meaningful relationships.”Library Journal


 

Sunday Post

Book arrivals:  (linked to Mailbox Monday)

My mom had surgery last week so I was with her and a few of my sisters. No idea if any books arrived. That’s also the reason for the run of Spotlight posts lately. I hope you’ll enjoy a few more this week. 

Last week on Bookfan:

      

Reading plan for this week

Not sure but hopefully something 🙂


 

Spotlight on: The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

Pub. date: October 16, 2018 – St. Martin’s Press

Publisher’s description:

New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter, Paula Brackston, returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance to start a new series that will enchant her audience more than ever before. THE LITTLE SHOP OF FOUND THINGS tells the captivating story of a young woman whose connection to antiques takes her on a magical journey.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she’s confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.

While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.

With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, THE LITTLE SHOP OF FOUND THINGS is set to be a strong, whimsical start to this new series.


About the author:

Paula Brackston is the New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter, The Winter Witch, The Midnight Witch, The Silver Witch, and The Return of the Witch. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Lancaster University in the UK. She lives in Wales with her family.


Praise for Paula Brackston and THE LITTLE SHOP OF FOUND THINGS:

“A solid, enjoyable read with a hint of magical time travel.” – Booklist

“Brackston wonderfully blends history with the time-travel elements and a touch of romance. This series debut is a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments.” – Publishers Weekly

“Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander collection will delight in Brackston’s new series and eagerly await its second installment. A bewitching tale of love across centuries.” – Kirkus


 

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

Berkley Hardcover; October 2, 2018; $26.00

Historical Fiction

Description:  London, 1938. The effervescent “It girl” of London society since her father was named the ambassador, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy moves in rarified circles, rubbing satin-covered elbows with some of the 20th century’s most powerful figures. Eager to escape the watchful eye of her strict mother, Rose, the antics of her older brothers, Jack and Joe, and the erratic behavior of her sister Rosemary, Kick is ready to strike out on her own and is soon swept off her feet by Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire.
 
But their love is forbidden, as Kick’s devout Catholic family and Billy’s staunchly Protestant one would never approve their match. When war breaks like a tidal wave across her world, Billy is ripped from her arms as the Kennedys are forced to return to the States. Kick gets work as a journalist and joins the Red Cross to get back to England, where she will have to decide where her true loyalties lie—with family or with love. (publisher)

My take:  Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy’s story is the stuff that fans of PBS Masterpiece series love to watch. It begins with Kick’s debut in London and meeting a certain Billy Hartington – who will one day be the Duke of Devonshire. Sounds like a fairytale, right? They both feel the pull of family duty, tradition, and religious faith. Stronger, though, is the pull of love that develops over several years.

The Kennedy Debutante covers the days leading up to and including WWII in England as seen through the eyes of Kick and her friends and family. No one was immune from tragedy so most grabbed whatever happiness could be found – stringent family expectations were easy to ignore. It was a time for Kick to examine her own life and decide what was best for her.

I’d only heard of Kathleen Kennedy but didn’t know much about her life. I enjoyed Kerri Maher’s imagined scenarios and am eager to learn more about Kick Kennedy. Recommended to fans of all things Kennedy and historical fiction.


About the author:

Kerri Maher is also the author of This Is Not A Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World under the name Kerri Majors. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and founded YARN, an award-winning literary journal of short-form YA writing. For many years a professor of writing, she now writes full time and lives with her daughter in Massachusetts where apple picking and long walks in the woods are especially fine.


Advance praise for THE KENNEDY DEBUTANTE:

“American royalty takes British aristocracy by storm in The Kennedy Debutante, starring JFK’s vivacious sister Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy who arrives in London on the brink of war…Kerri Maher’s debut stars a debutante to root for in this moving coming-of-age tale.”—Kate Quinn,New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

 

“An outstanding deep dive into a fascinating person and time. For fans of The Crown, the riveting story of a headstrong American girl captivated by a dashing British aristocrat. I’m blown away.”—Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece

 

“Maher beautifully mixes the red-blooded American iconography of the Kennedys with the delicious and Downton Abbey­-esque grandeur of Britain’s upper crusts…her story will make your heart lurch in the best possible ways.”—Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress


 

Spotlight: The Girl From Berlin by Ronald H. Balson

The Girl From Berlin by Ronald H. Balson

Liam Taggart & Catherine Lockhart Series, #5

October 9, 2018 – St. Martin’s Press

Book Summary:

In the newest novel from internationally-bestselling author Ronald. H. Balson, Liam and Catherine come to the aid of an old friend and are drawn into a property dispute in Tuscany that unearths long-buried secrets

An old friend calls Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to his famous Italian restaurant to enlist their help. His aunt is being evicted from her home in the Tuscan hills by a powerful corporation claiming they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land. Catherine and Liam’s only clue is a bound handwritten manuscript, entirely in German, and hidden in its pages is a story long-forgotten…

Ada Baumgarten was born in Berlin in 1918, at the end of the war. The daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, and herself a violin prodigy, Ada’s life was full of the rich culture of Berlin’s interwar society. She formed a deep attachment to her childhood friend Kurt, but they were torn apart by the growing unrest as her Jewish family came under suspicion. As the tides of history turned, it was her extraordinary talent that would carry her through an unraveling society turned to war, and make her a target even as it saved her, allowing her to move to Bologna―though Italy was not the haven her family had hoped, and further heartache awaited.

What became of Ada? How is she connected to the conflicting land deeds of a small Italian villa? As they dig through the layers of lies, corruption, and human evil, Catherine and Liam uncover an unfinished story of heart, redemption, and hope―the ending of which is yet to be written.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

RONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues. He is also the author of The Trust, Karolina’s Twins, Saving Sophie, and the international bestseller Once We Were Brothers.

PRAISE FOR RONALD H. BALSON:

“Weaving together history with mystery, Ronald H. Balson crafts a compelling tale.”Us Weekly on The Trust

“Secrets, friendships, survival, and the Holocaust are woven together in Ronald H. Balson’s haunting Karolina’s Twins.”Family Circle on Karolina’s Twins

Once We Were Brothers tells a great story . . . gripping…”The Chicago Tribune on Once We Were Brothers