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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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


 

Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins

My take:

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley for granting my request to read Good Luck With That.

I’ve dealt with weight issues most of my life. More like body image issues when I come to think of it. Having grown up in the sixties and seventies I wished I could look like the girls on tv sitcoms (Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, etc). Those girls were slim and had long straight center-parted hair and I was average shape with dark naturally curly hair that had a mind of its own. I remember the day the female freshman PE teacher weighed us and measured our height. I was 5’6 and weighed 120 lbs. I felt huge – so much taller and bigger than my classmates. Talk about poor self-image, huh? So that’s what I brought with me when I read Good Luck With That.

Kristan Higgins is on my trusted favorite authors list – meaning I’ll read whatever she writes. But this one was a tough read for me. It hit so close to home on a few levels. Not exactly though – because my mother wasn’t as purposely (cluelessly?) hurtful as Georgia’s. No, my mom was well-meaning and thought she offered positive encouragement. Sigh.

So this novel is about three friends who met at a camp for overweight teenage girls. They formed a bond that carried over into adulthood. As often happens after college they met less often and kind of lost track of one friend, Emerson, because she lived hours away. Sadly, their last time to meet is when she’s dying.

After Emerson’s funeral Marley and Georgia open an envelope containing the list they compiled at camp when they were seventeen. It’s a list of things they’ll do when they are skinny. Emerson has requested they do the things on the list and that leads them to examining their relationship with food, men, family, etc.

Good Luck With That is written in Higgins’ usual warm, emotional style. Her characters’ families drew laughs and winces from me. I loved seeing Georgia and Marley take more control of their issues and discover how empowering that control can be. Filled with (mostly) delightful and endearing secondary characters I have to say this novel grew on me. What started as a book I had to put down a few times in the beginning due to certain scenes and topics, I finished the second half in a few hours. I’m glad I had the chance to read it. I think it would be a good selection for book groups – there’s a reader’s guide at the end.


 

Spotlight/Review: Our House by Louise Candlish

Our House by Louise Candlish

Berkley Hardcover; August 7, 2018

Review copy courtesy of Berkley

Description:  (content provided by the publisher)

“An artfully plotted, affecting page-turner…Candlish manages to stash a couple of trump cards, setting up a truly killer climax. American fans of domestic suspense will want to see more from this talented author.” Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

 

“The last line will make you literally shout with shock.” —Good Housekeeping


US Giveaway: The Night The Lights Went Out by Karen White

THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT

Berkley Trade Paperback | March 27, 2018 | ISBN: 9780451488404| $16.00

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About the book:  (provided by the publisher)

In THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT, recently divorced Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over. But her new beginning isn’t helped by an anonymous local blog that reveals for the whole town the scandalous affair that caused her marriage to fail. And Merilee’s new landlord, the proud, irascible, Atlanta born-and-bred 93-year-old Sugar Prescott, certainly isn’t helping.

 

But off Sugar’s property, Merilee finds herself swallowed into Sweet Apple’s most elite ranks—its inner circle of wealthy school moms—thanks to her blossoming friendship with the belle of the town, Heather Blackford. But behind the tennis whites, shiny SUVs, and immaculate women, lurk generations of secrets and resentments. And Merilee quickly learns that, in a town where appearance is everything, sins and secrets can be found in equal measure in the dark woods on Sugar’s property, and within the gated mansions of her newfound friends . . .

 

THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT is what would happen if ABC’s Revenge followed the machinations of Southern PTA moms instead of Hamptons elite.  For readers of Dorothea Benton Frank, Mary Alice Monroe, and Pat Conroy, this novel delivers everything her readers love and more.


About the author:

Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including the Tradd Street series, The Night the Lights Went OutFlight PatternsThe Sound of GlassA Long Time Gone, and The Time Between. She is the coauthor of The Forgotton Room with New York Times bestselling authors Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. She grew up in London but now lives with her husband and two children near Atlanta, Georgia.

photo credit: Marchet Butler

 


Praise for Karen White:

“PLUMBS THE DEPTH OF HUMANITY, OF LIFE AND DEATH AND TRAGEDY AND PERSERVERANCE” The Herald Sun“GOTHIC GOLD” The Atlantan “ULTIMATE VOICE IN WOMEN’S FICTION” Fresh Fiction “EMOTIONALLY SATISFYING” Kirkus Reviews • “HER ICONIC MELLIFLUENT, INNOVATIVE NARRATIVE IS HAUNGTINGLY BEAUTIFUL” RT Book Reviews • “CHARACTERS WITH DEPTH” The Fayetteville Observer “ENGROSSING” Parkersburg News and Sentinel (WV) •

“VIVID” Library Journal “SENSITIVE, PRECISE, AND POWERFUL” RT Book Reviews


US Giveaway

Please click here and fill out the form

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED


Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

  • Title:  Death Below Stairs
  • Series:  Kat Holloway #1
  • Author:  Jennifer Ashley
  • Genre:  Historical Mystery
  • Pages:  336
  • Published:  January 2018 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Beloved young cook Kat Holloway charms readers with her fierce sincerity as she takes on a new position in the household of powerful Lord Rankin.

Kat discovers a slew of odd characters living in the Rankin manor, from a lethargic Lady Rankin to her masculine spinster of a sister, to an eccentric cast of servants, and finally a very lustful, tempestuous Lord Rankin. Even more striking, however, is the trouble brewing in the home, which boils over when Kat’s young assistant is found murdered.
 
As Kat and her friend Daniel McAdam begin covertly investigating the murder, they soon find themselves working against a most daunting scheme – can they manage to escape the trouble they’ve cooked up for themselves?  (publisher)
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My take:  Every so often I like to read an historical mystery. I like being able to imagine myself living in those circumstances and then go along for the ride of the mystery. In Death Below Stairs author Jennifer Ashley’s main character is the new cook for a prominent Mayfair household. She’s not quite thirty years old and is a bit of a mystery herself. I suspect there’s even more to learn about Mrs. H. in future books.

Death Below Stairs is chock full of interesting characters who fall on one side or the other of  abhorrent (evil) and sympathetic (good). It has its share of eccentrics too – which I loved. And there’s the matter of Daniel McAdam. It seems he has a crush on our Mrs. H. He’s a mystery to her though.

I won’t spoil with plot points and such but I’ll say if you’re looking to try the genre there’s no better time than with this first book in the Kat Holloway series. Kat has me hooked and I look forward to finding out what challenges she, Daniel and their friends face next. Fans of the below stairs goings-on of Downton Abbey or Victoria will surely enjoy the world of Kat Holloway.


Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

  • Title:  Seven Days of Us
  • Author:  Francesca Hornak
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  358
  • Published:  October 2017 – Berkley Hardcover
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

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… (publisher)

My take:  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.


AUTHOR BIO

Francesca Hornak is a journalist and writer, whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday TimesThe GuardianElleMarie ClaireCosmopolitan 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. Visit her online @FrancescaHornak.

LINKS