Sunday, October 15, 2017

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

What I Say....A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays...

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…

What I Say.....Can you imagine being quarantined with your family for seven days?  First of all, I don't think that I would subject my family to the chance of catching a deadly virus from me.  Secondly, I don't think I would subject anyone to a week locked in a house with me in a bad mood.  And Olivia is in a bad mood.  

She's distant from her family, and not excited at all to be home with her parents and sister.  Olivia is a little bit (a lot) self righteous, and looks down on what she perceives to be superficiality or having lavish meals after spending the last few years in a remote country that is riddled with disease and poverty.  

Her younger sister Phoebe is her exact opposite.  She is her father's favorite, and happy just to have a hot boyfriend and frivolous career.  Having her serious sister home grates on her nerves, and threatens to take some of her father's attention away from her.

Increasing the stress level is their mother, Emma, who has a lump that she is waiting for test results on, but she is determined not to let it affect her family's Christmas, so she is keeping it secret.  Their father's secret son has decided to make contact with his new family, even though Andrew has made the cowardly decision not to answer his emails.

Add in Olivia's boyfriend who is fighting for his life in his own quarantine, and Phoebe's boyfriend who seems to be hiding a big secret, and emotions will continue to bubble up until they can't be contained anymore.

Honestly, this book had a great storyline, good writing, but I really didn't care about any of the characters.  They all seemed selfish in their own way, or in Emma's case, such a pushover that I had no sympathy.  It wasn't until the end that I began to care about any of them.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

What They Say....Find your magic.

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.

What I Say.....Can anyone resist an Alice Hoffman book?  I can't. Never ever.  I was so excited to get an advance copy of The Rules of Magic, the prequel to Practical Magic.  

The Owens children are being raised in New York by a mother who is trying her best to deny the magic that she was born into.  But she can't resist allowing them to visit their Aunt Isabelle, where they spend the summer discovering what they really are.  

The Owens children know that they are supposed to avoid love, but love doesn't seem be able to avoid them.  All three find love in different places, but their journeys all go in different directions.  Love saves one, shatters another and leads another on a journey of avoidance. 

Following the aunts from childhood to spinsterhood is heartwarming and heartbreaking.  To be blessed and cursed with magic seems to be a lonely life indeed.

I read The Rules of the Magic over the course of a day and a half, but I never wanted it to end.  

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris

What They Say....In Sleep Like a Baby, the latest installment of the #1 New York Times Bestselling Charlaine Harris’s Aurora Teagarden series, Robin and Aurora have finally begun their adventure in parenting. With newborn Sophie proving to be quite a handful, Roe’s mother pays for a partially trained nurse, Virginia Mitchell, to come help the new parents for a few weeks. Virginia proves to be especially helpful when Robin has to leave town for work and Roe is struck with a bad case of the flu.

One particularly stormy night, Roe wakes to hear her daughter crying and Virginia nowhere to be found. Roe's brother Philip helps her search the house and they happen upon a body outside… but it isn’t Virginia’s. Now, not only does she have a newborn to care for and a vulnerable new marriage to nurture, Roe also has to contend with a new puzzle -- who is this mystery woman dead in their backyard, and what happened to Virginia? This heart-pounding and exciting next installment of the Aurora Teagarden series will leave fans happy and hungry for more.

What I Say....This will be known to me as the Aurora Teagarden gets the flu book.  I mean seriously, I've never seen any mom I know get this much help when they're sick, including bringing in a night nurse for the baby.  Usually moms soldier on because you have no choice. This was like man-flu.

But it ends up backfiring, because Roe ends up with a dead woman in her backyard and a missing nanny.  Robin is out of town, but still seems to be getting the side eye from the neighbors as to his involvement.

As Roe starts to recover from her illness, she starts trying to solve the mystery.  In the meantime, she has a sudden illness in someone close to her, friends who seem to be acting a little strangely to her, and a teenaged brother with a girlfriend.  Even putting in a security system seems to put them in more danger!

This was one of the better entries in the series.  Sometimes I feel like I need an org chart to remember all of the characters from over the years.   This was a sweet, easy read and I really enjoyed it.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

What They Say.....In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.
The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on. 
When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behavior and save her own life?

What I Say.....I've always been a Diane Chamberlain fan so I was really excited to get a copy of her new book.  This seemed like a little bit of a departure from her usual books, but it was still really good.

Tess is a devout Catholic girl engaged to the perfect boy next door when one night's decision ends up with her married to a man she barely knows, exiled from her family and living in North Carolina.

Her new husband is kind but distant, her new mother and sister in law are not kind and distant, and Tess is bored, lonely and heartbroken.

I thought I knew what the twist was, but I was pretty wrong.  Tess insists on taking her nursing boards so she can practice, despite her new family's wishes.  A polio outbreak brings a familiar face back into Tess's  world, and everything is thrown into chaos.

I loved how the storyline covered so many diverse storylines with a little bit of history.  It's crazy to think how polio used to be a real concern compared to how fortunate we are now.  

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Pretty, Nasty, Lovely by Rosalind Noonan

What They Say.....Pledging to Theta Pi at Merriwether University seemed to offer Emma Danelski a passport to friendship, fun, and popularity. But the excitement of pledge training quickly fades, as does the warmth of her so-called sisters. What’s left is a stifling society filled with petty rules, bullying, and manipulation. Most haunting are the choices Emma makes in the wake of another sorority sister’s suicide . . .

It doesn’t matter that no one else needs to know what Emma did, or how vastly different life at Theta House is from the glossy image it projects. Emma knows. And now, with her loyalties tested, she must decide which secrets are worth keeping and how far she’ll go to protect them—and herself . . .

What I Say....This was a quick little read.  Emma grew up missing a sense of family after her sister and mother were killed in a car accident.  So she took a year off after high school to save the money needed to pay for pledging a sorority.  Sit back and absorb that. It was so important to her that she pushed back her education and career to pledge a sorority.   Bonkers.

So she's joined a sorority, and she feels a strong sense of sisterhood, but I don't really know why.  The older girls are hot messes and not nice to her to boot.

There are flashbacks to a dead baby in a laundry basket.  And a sorority sister who jumps off a bridge -or did she?  

I enjoyed the book, don't get me wrong.  But it could have been even better.  The professor and the dean were cardboard characters that didn't really add to the story.  

Some things were brought up that caught my interest, but never really explained or explored further.  Did Emma's sister purposefully try to kill her family?  The second baby that was found in the gorge was a brief mention without any follow up.   These are kind of big plot twists to just mention then drop.

I'll look for her next book, there's a lot of talent there, just needs a little better execution.