#BookReview Seven Days Of Us by Francesca Hornak @PiatkusBooks

seven days of usA 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 Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.

As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides 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…  Published  October 19th 2017 by Piatkus (UK)

I wasn’t going to post a review today, but seeing as how I finished this book just a couple of hours ago I thought there’s no time like the present to start my New Year resolution (well one of them!) of writing my reviews as soon as I finish a book. Besides, being as this book covers the period of 23rd December through to New Years Eve, what more perfect time than now to let you know how much I really liked it!

Christmas themed books have taken off epically in the last few years, and if I’m honest, I tend to avoid a lot of them. For one, December is so maddeningly busy in this house that my reading tends to take a nose dive. I’m a stickler for keeping Christmas to December (I won’t eat a mince pie until the 1st December despite them being in shops from August and seriously loving them!), so picking up a Christmas book in July just wouldn’t be right for me. I’m always a bit wary that they might be a bit cheesy and sentimentally slushy (and I say this having read very few so am quite probably wrong!) and that puts me off a bit. Fear not though …. there is absolutely nothing slushy, sparkly or cheesy about this book.

The Birch family are about to face Christmas in quarantine, when eldest daughter Olivia returns from Liberia where she has been treating victims of a deadly and highly contagious virus. For seven whole days, Andrew and Emma, along with Olivia and youngest daughter Phoebe, must remain indoors, stuck together with no physical contact with the outside world. Already a fractured and resentful family, as tensions rise over the claustrophobic week, secrets are revealed, hidden resentments aired and home-truths shared.

Seven Days of Us is one of those books which relies heavily on characterization rather than plot, and Francesca Hornak certainly writes them very well. She draws each member of the Birch Family so intricately, catching mannerisms and personality traits with meticulous detail, so that each one becomes fully rounded, three dimensional characters who I felt I really understood individually.

While this book is set over the Christmas period, it isn’t really about Christmas. It’s about lost dreams and old resentments, new beginnings and fresh hope. As the family are forced to spend the week together, an opportunity to get to know each other again and understand each other opens up, but with shocking secrets about to revealed, is the tie of family enough to bring these four people, so different from each other, together again as a family.

Filled with flaws – selfishness and bitterness, uncertainty and regrets, there’s a very raw and honest aspect to this glimpse into a family at the brink of falling apart. I liked how the author presented each of the characters as complicit in the dysfunctional dynamics of the family, while allowing the reader to understand intimately what drives their actions. All the while I was hoping they could come together and find peace, despite the twists, turns and tears that lead them to it.

Seven Days of Us was a perfect read for me over the last few days, and I don’t think I could have chosen a better festive read for myself. Although I definitely would recommend this book at any time of the year. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, without a side order of cheese, this poignant and honest book won my heart this Christmas.

I read an advance proof courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program

 

#CoverReveal – Christmas At The Dancing Duck by Daisy James @DaisyJamesBooks

I’m really excited to be taking part in the cover reveal for Daisy James’ new book! Yes, I know it’s only August, but I already know this is going on my Christmas Bookish Wishlist! I absolutely love this cover – what do you think?

Christmas dancing duck

A wonderfully festive romantic read to curl up with this Christmas.

The most wonderful time of the year!

Kirstie Harrison is finally coming home for the holidays. Ever since tragedy struck a few years ago, Christmas hasn’t felt the same – but she’s determined that this year will be different…

And staying at the family pub, The Dancing Duck, means it’s impossible not to get caught up in the little village of Cranbury’s festive traditions. And it’s equally impossible to avoid her ex, Josh Turner!

Kirstie is torn between making this the best Christmas yet and knowing that she can’t stay forever. Maybe it’s time to make a holiday wish of her own…?

 

Vicki 2011 Round Up: Reminiscing and Resolutions

Wow. I actually can not believe that I’m here doing this post already. Where the heck did 2011 go? It feels like I blinked and missed it. There was so much I was going to do personal wise that I never got round to (mainly decorating) and the cupboard under the stairs still needs cleaned out…this year I swear I’ll get round to putting the Christmas tree away properly!

Blog wise it’s been a pretty exciting year all round I think. 2011 saw a big change and after a year of blogging alone under the name of Rhiana Reads… I was joined by Lyndsey and together we became Heaven Hell and Purgatory Book reviews. Having a blogging partner has been fantastic…the pressure is definitely less when the reading and reviewing is shared plus having someone to talk books and bounce idea’s off is great. Lyndsey’s been an awesome co-blogger, particularly over the last couple of months when my work and personal schedule has taken me away from things here. Luckily she’s done more than her share to keep things running and I owe her a HUGE thanks for that.

Not only did the team double, but this year all of our stats did too and we end 2011 with twice as many followers as we started…so thanks to all of you for that. Visitor numbers have almost trebled compared to this  time last year, which makes me proud that people genuinely seem to appreciate our opinions on books. 


I was lucky enough to be invited to some amazing events because of the blog this year and met some fantastic bloggers, authors and publicists. Highlight of the year though had to be an overnight stay in Alnwick Castle to celebrate the second book in the Poison diaries series. Along with some of my very favourite people I got to have a sleep over in the Castle used as HOGWARTS(!) for some scenes in the first two movies, meet the Duchess of Northumberland, have high tea in the state dining room and dinner in the most amazing  tree house restaurant. To see my report and pictures of the event click HERE

A very close second however was attending the launch party for Alyson Noel’s final book in her Immortals series, Everlasting. I even got my tarot read…something I’d always wanted to do. Alyson was incredibly nice too. Report and pics HERE

Sarah (Feeling Fictional), Me, Stacey (Pretty Books) at Alyson Noel’s launch party
If all this wasn’t exciting enough I managed to win tickets to the Radio One Big Weekend and took along my lovely blogging partner Lyndsey. We saw Lady Gaga, My Chemical Romance, Bruno Mars and some other amazing acts live and despite the cold it was a brilliant day!


2011 saw us host our very own feature month here, Summer Lovin’ 2011. It was hard work but lots of fun and I’d like to thanks all the bloggers and authors who took part by writing guest posts. If you’d like to see what it was all about then click HERE

So what next for 2012…

I think it’s fair to say that I burned out a little by the end of this year reading and blogging wise and after thinking about it a while I’m pretty certain I know why. I’m one of these people who don’t work well under pressure…in fact if I feel I HAVE to do something then I’m even less inclined to want to do it. If I’m honest a point came where reading was no longer as fun as it used to be, I was forcing myself to read certain books at certain times and it just wasn’t working. 

So the approach for 2012 here will be a much more relaxed one, back to how it first started out. We’re no longer going to be solely a ‘Young Adult’ site as we’re both finding it limiting…me more so. There’s a whole range of books we want to read and talk about…and so that is what we’ll do. I’m also dramatically scaling back the number of books I acquire by whatever means. While having lots of books drop through the letter box is lovely, it’s also pressure and the truth is I’m not a machine. I can only do so much. Plus I’m on the verge of having to move into the shed to make way for all these books I’ve yet to read. I’ll be much more selective in the coming year. 


Which brings me onto my next point. We’ve decided we won’t be participating in In My Mailbox anymore, in fact it’s been a while since we have and it’s been liberating. This is in no way a criticism of the meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren .. I’ve loved taking part in the past, it’s introduced me to some amazing bloggers and brought them to me…for which I’m grateful. However it’s time consuming and as Sunday’s are my only regular day off I’ll be spending them with my children from now on. 


What I’d like for 2012 is a return to a real love and passion for the books I read, more interaction with the blogging  and book community (who I have neglected in the past few months…thanks to those who still visited us despite my rudeness) and more spontaneity with the books I read and posts I publish including more personal, fun and discussion type posts. 


Finally….


Happy New Year To You All!!!

Vicki’s Top Books of 2011

Well, this has been a fantastic year book wise and I’ve read some amazing books. Some of my favourites though have been surprises and ones I probably wouldn’t have picked up a year or so ago and a mix of adult and YA novels. 

This isn’t a top anything…I couldn’t limit it to 3 or 5 so just chose my absolute favourites. It’s also in no particular order…all these books are winners in my eyes.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book blew me away with it’s stunning, rich, descriptive text and breathtaking magical romance. I’ve never read such an evocative book before and as I read the whole circus was brought to life in my mind. I couldn’t put it down and even when I wasn’t reading it, I was dreaming about it. 

Find out more at Goodreads HERE
Read my Review HERE


My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

This is one of the most powerful and relevant books I read this year. It dragged every emotion possible from me and I went from anger to sadness to smiling and laughing along with it’s amazing and lovable hero..10 year old Jamie. Tackling issues such as family bereavement, terrorism, racism, bullying and alcoholism in a brutally honest and thought provoking way, this is the book from 2011 I’d urge every teen to read.

Find out more at Goodreads.com HERE
Read my review HERE

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Go back 12 months and this book was on my list of most anticipated books of 2011 and WOW! It didn’t disappoint. I started reading it the second it dropped through my letter box and didn’t stop for several hours until I’d read every last page. Fast, fierce, and Four (yum!!!) this was definitely worth it’s wait and I can’t wait for the next installment, Insurgent in May 2012. 

Find out more at Goodreads.com HERE
Read my Review HERE

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

This is one of those books that everyone was declaring absolute love for and despite it not originally appealing to me all that much, i eventually had to find out what all the fuss was about. Now I know. Etienne St Claire *swoon* Definitely wins cutest book of the year…but it also surprised me with a pretty meaty story. Finally it’s set in Paris. Say no more.

Find out more on Goodreads.com HERE
Read my review HERE


Shadows On The Moon by Zoe Marriott

Oh how I loved this book and the beautiful world it’s set in. Filled with magic and romance it captivated me throughout. But among the fairytale there’s a story of loss, identity, self-hatred and vengeance. Suzame goes down for me as the best heroine of the year… she rocks big time and her journey is unforgettable!

Find out more at Goodreads.com HERE
Read my review HERE


Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

I’m going to be honest, Paranormal romance didn’t really do it for me this year. It was all a bit, samey. Apart from this one…which I absolutely LOVED. In main character Clara, Cynthia Hand has ripped up the rule book on wimpy, lovesick heroine’s of YAPR and instead we have a strong, lead female and an equally strong supporting cast. I also loved the relationship between the family. Exciting AND refreshing.

Find out more at Goodreads.com HERE
Read my Review HERE

The next two aren’t released until 2012, but HAD to make it in my top books of 2011 list as I adored both…go add them to your wishlists/pre-orders now!

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Set in Alaska in the 1920’s this book tells the story of a childless couple who yearn for a child and a mysterious girl who comes and goes with the snow. Wonderfully descriptive and heartrendingly sad at times and with it’s roots in Russian folklore, this book is spellbinding and perfect for loosing yourself in infront of a blazing fire.

Find out More at Goodreads HERE
Published Febuary 2012 (UK)


The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

A story told over 24 hours and full of what if’s, this book is just so good and heartwarming it will leave the most cynical among us believing in fate. It’s the perfect book to lift any post Christmas blues and a must read for any hopeless romantics out there!


Find out more at Goodreads.com HERE
Read my review HERE




So that’s it! There are many more fabulous books I’ve read this year but these for me where the most memorable.


Did your favourite make it on my list? Have I missed your favourite out and you want to tell us why it should’ve been there? leave a comment below!

Book Review: The Haunting Of Charity Delafield by Ian Beck

A magical, enchanting tale, with stunning illustrations that will transport you into another world. 

Flame-haired Charity Delafield has grown up in a vast, isolated house – most of which she is forbidden to explore – with her fiercely strict father. With only her kindly nurse, Rose, and her cat Mr Tompkins for company, she knows very little of the outside world – or of her own family’s shadowy past. What she does know is that she is NEVER to go outside unsupervised. And she is NEVER to over-excite herself, because of the mysterious ‘condition’ that she has been told she suffers from. 

But Charity has a secret. All her life, she has had the same strange dream – a dream of a dark corridor, hidden somewhere in the house. Then, one day, Charity stumbles across the corridor. It leads to a door . . . and suddenly she realises things are not quite what they seem. (From Goodreads.Com)


The Haunting Of Charity Delafield is one of those books that once you open the first page, will transport you into another world completely and keep you hooked until the very last page. Reading it was an absolute pleasure.

The book is set in Victorian times, which as I’ve mentioned once or twice before is my most favourite time of all to read about and Ian Beck captures it beautifully. All the ingredients of a delicious Gothic tale are here: a huge, intimidating mansion, family secrets and  loyal servants. Everything about this book screams children’s classic and it reminded me of books like The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgeson Burnett and The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, my two favourite books from childhood and the ones I credit my love of books to. Like those books, I can see the Haunting Of Charity Delafield also inspiring a love of reading and it’s certainly a book you’d want to read over and over again.

It also has a magical, fairy tale element which is revealed towards the end of the book and I admit I wasn’t actually expecting. it’s beautifully written and imaginative though and I absolutely loved it. At only 200 pages long it’s perfect for confident readers of age ten upwards and I know if I’d read this at that age I would have been spellbound by it. This is certainly a book I’ll be keeping for my daughter to enjoy in a few years time. 

My copy was a proof, but the hardback is truly a thing of beauty with it’s gold tipped pages and stunning illustrations, it makes the perfect gift. A book for children to inspire a love of reading, and adults to enjoy a nostalgic journey of their own childhood books, this is one book that should be making it into Christmas stockings this year. 




Published by Random House Children’s Books 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review

I was lucky enough to interview Ian Beck about The Haunting Of Charity Delafield earlier this year and you can read it HERE



Picture Book Review: Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allen

When I was in Infant school, a long long time ago (:D) it was the big kids who did the Nativity in their final year. I dreamed about the day I too reached the grand old age of six and would be up there on the stage shining in my white sheet sewn up by my mother with a tinsel halo round my head. I distinctly remember the day parts were being given out and praying I’d be an angel and not a sheep…and I was! Then the day before the big show I got very sick and missed it, never again getting the chance to give the most angelic performance ever. 


So two years later, when my younger brother was given the part of the Innkeeper and struggled to learn that one famous line, I took it upon myself to help. For days we’d act out the whole show at home, with me of course playing the important bits. When his performance came round I remember beaming with pride when he got his line perfectly on cue. Since then I’ve always had a soft spot for the Innkeeper and it’s one of my favourite parts of children’s nativity plays. 


But just what did that poor Innkeeper make of all those shannigans all those years ago? Well if you’ve ever wondered you can find out in this delightful and funny picture book by Nicholas Allen. The story is told from his perspective, and the grumpy little soul is non too happy to be woken up in the night not only by Mary and Joseph, but by the shepherds and kings who’ve lost their way and some very loud divine singing. 


What’s so brilliant about this book is how it tells a funny story in such simple language and very few words that both children and adults alike will love it. Yet it still gets over the message of Christmas in an unpreaching way so even the least religious amongst us will still appreciate it. With it’s hilarious illustrations the story is brought to life and the text is easy enough for beginner readers to have a go at themselves. This book is perfect for children aged from around three who are just learning the Christmas story themselves and is a perfect read aloud book to cuddle in with in the run up to the big day.


Jesus’ Christmas Party is a unique spin on the original story of Christmas and has been read over and over again by my daughter since it arrived, who loves shouting out the grumpy Inn keepers lines. The ending leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling just like all Christmas stories should. We loved this book and I think it’s one of the best Christmas picture books we own (and we have a lot) Highly recommended!


Published by Random House Children’s Books. Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review. 


There’s also a short animation/song from the school musical based on this book…how cute?

Book Review: The Night Before Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

All Lydia’s ever wanted is a perfect Christmas… 

So when her oldest friends invite her to spend the holidays with them, it seems like a dream come true. She’s been promised log fires, roasted chestnuts, her own weight in mince pies – all in a setting that looks like something out of a Christmas card. 

But her winter wonderland is ruined when she finds herself snowed in with her current boyfriend, her old flame and a hunky stranger. Well, three (wise) men is traditional at this time of year… (From Goodreads.com)



A few weeks ago I found myself making a nightmare journey by train all in the name of childcare. Four times. On one of my bad tempered treks across the country I realised I’d forgotten to pack a book, and considering I had 3 hours to pass without a child panic set in. With Tesco being the nearest and only open shop that sold books that’s where I headed. It’s only a small shop though and had a limited selection of books but this one appealed with it’s stunningly pretty cover and festive synopsis. 


My forgetfulness turned into a blessing though as I thoroughly enjoyed Scarlet Bailey’s debut novel from beginning to end. This is chick lit at it’s best and ticks every single box. A likable and relatable heroine, an awkward situation with hilarious and cringeworthy moments and not one but three potential love interests. Throw into the mix three interesting and different girl friends, an emotional birth and CHRISTMAS and this is a winner. If you’re a fan of chick lit then you’ll love this one. 


One thing which pleasantly surprised me was the setting of Keswick in the Lake District. I spent a couple of the best years of my life living there and now live just half an hours drive away, but never have I come across a book set in this part of the world. I loved how Scarlett Incorporated the area into the story, bringing it to life with genuine passion and even throwing in a bit of local dialect which made me chuckle. I do have one issue though. Why in all the time I’ve spent here have I failed to find myself a Will Dacre (whose surname even lends itself nicely to the area)? *Swoon indeed!* Moody, broody and earthy, I LOVED him. 


I also loved the fact that the book is set over a few days of Christmas. Often a *Christmassy* looking book like this only features the season briefly but this is full on festive right the way through. All the tensions, romance and humour of Christmas are captured beautifully and I went from laughing to sympathising to feeling all warm and fuzzy throughout. The story moves at a fast pace and I couldn’t put it down and after my train journey stayed up into the small hours just devouring it. 


The Night Before Christmas absolutely hits the spot if you’re looking for a lighthearted romantic festive comedy. Despite being Scarlett Bailey’s debut I found the pacing, writing and character development accomplished and confident. It was a joy of a read which left me feeling happy and cosy, delivering everything I wanted…with tinsel. I’ll certainly be looking out for more from this author in the future and recommend you treat yourself this book to curl up with over Christmas. You won’t be disappointed.







Published by Ebury Press October 2011