Category: Fiction

Review: Seven Days of Us

Seven Days of Us
Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the digital review copy! All opinions are my own!

Perhaps every family should be quarantined together . . .

The holiday season is great. Halloween kicks it off, then Thanksgiving, then we steamroll right into Christmas. (Sometimes Christmas takes over a bit early . . .) Decorations, fairy lights, food, and family. It all seems wonderful. In theory. But what if you were stuck in a house with your entire immediate family, who you don’t exactly get along with, for seven days? And by stuck, I mean medically and legally quarantined. Francesca Hornak explores that idea in her new book Seven Days of Us, and after reading about the Birch family, I’m a bit more grateful for my own!

Olivia Birch, MD, has been away in Liberia treating people for the deadly Haag virus, which is rapidly spreading to other countries. Upon her return to England, she is required to be quarantined for seven days to make sure she doesn’t display any signs of the virus. Instead of spending Christmas alone, she decides to join her family, meaning they must all be quarantined for a week. Olivia is trying to re-acclimate to first world amenities (and first problems), her sister, Phoebe, is focused on her upcoming wedding, her dad locks himself in his office, writing restaurant reviews, and her mom, Emma, is hiding a secret that won’t stay hidden for long. And of course, there’s a mystery guest who none of them are expecting.

The story takes place over the seven days the family is in quarantine, and is told in short, alternating chapters between each of the family members and the mystery guest. This was a really fun read for me, and perfect for reading before the holidays! (Or perhaps for reading while you’re hiding in your room away from your own family . . . ) It was interesting to see how different the family members were from each other, with the differences being made even more prominent from being stuck together. There are some really funny parts (one laugh out loud for me), and Hornak keeps the suspense going by revealing bits of information throughout the book that the reader knows but not all of the characters know. The fun is in watching them all find out certain things and seeing how they react. (And seeing which secrets each family member chooses to hide, and their actions are misperceived because of that.)

In my opinion, none of the characters were very likeable, because they were written very honestly, but they are all interesting. Whether or not you agree with each character’s opinions or choices, they all remain true to themselves, and the way they behave is informed by their circumstances in life. This is a family, and families aren’t perfect. I loved peeking into their window and watching the drama unfold over a week. There is also an extra little twist at the end of the book, and I really appreciated it over a perfect, gift-wrapped ending.

Seven Days of Us is a fun, family drama that doesn’t get too deep, but offers some very interesting insights to the secrets families keep and what would happen if they were forced to stay together for a whole week.


Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

“It will take more than just a couple of good hearted souls to raise this child. It will,” said Silas, “take a graveyard.”

I picked this book up on a whim. I was in the mood for something spooky, something quick, and something a little different. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is definitely all of those things, and then some. While this book is perfect for a spooky fall read, I would recommend this for any time of year. It is categorized as a middle grade novel, but I enjoyed it a lot, and there are some big things going on in the book that make reading it as an adult even more meaningful.

Nobody Owens, a living boy, lives in a graveyard. After his family was murdered (quite violently) when he was 18 months old, he managed to escape his house and wound up in a graveyard. The resident ghosts decided that rather than turn him back to the world of the living, where the killer is still searching for Nobody, they will raise him and teach him how to do ghostly things, in addition to reading and writing. As Nobody grows older, he begins to wonder what lies beyond the graveyard, and gets into some trouble as he tries to discover who he really is, and where he really belongs.

This book is weird. It is also beautiful . . . in a weird way. I love that it takes the trope of a child being raised by animals (Gaiman thanks Rudyard Kipling in the Acknowledgements) and twists it into a story of a child being raised by ghosts in a graveyard. But even with that strange setting, it is still simply the story of a precocious child looking for adventure. His adventures just happen to include ghouls, hellhounds, and a probable vampire.

Older kids will love the graveyard setting and the wild adventures Nobody goes on. Adults will appreciate the deeper story at work here: a child who is growing up and wants to leave him, even as he still feels the pull of staying with his family and what he knows. There’s a particular scene that I just love, when Nobody is complaining to a group of ghouls about how unfair his ghost parents are and how they don’t understand him. It’s proof that no parent can win, no matter how different and cool they seem.

The Graveyard Book is wonderful, beautiful, weird, and a little heartbreaking. I read it in two days, so if you’re looking for a last-minute spooky Halloween read, this one is perfect.


Review: The Rules of Magic

The Rules of Magic

Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a digital galley of this book – all opinions are my own!

The summer had started them thinking: If they were not like everyone else, who, then, were they?

Y’all, my love for Alice Hoffman runs deep. I’ve been reading her books since high school, and she writes magical realism like no one else. I recently re-read Practical Magic (Read my review HERE.) so that I would be ready to read The Rules of Magic, a prequel to Practical Magic, out today. If you loved Practical Magic, or even just liked it, I can almost guarantee you’re going to love this one. It is wonderfully magical, perfect for fall, and has more suspense than I’m used to from Hoffman. I absolutely loved it.

In Practical Magic, Gillian and Sally live with their aunts, Franny and Jet, after their parents die. They spend much of the book denying their ancestry and both being fascinated by and trying to ignore the strange things the aunts do to help the women in their small town. The Rules of Magic is about Franny and Jet, their childhood, and how they came to be the women of Practical Magic. Franny, Jet, and their brother, Vincent, live in New York City, where their mother sets strict rules for them. But once a year, they visit their aunt Isabelle in a small Massachusetts town where their family has lived for centuries, the house on Magnolia Street. They, too, are trying to escape the Owens’ family curse, where magic rules and love leads to misfortune. But as Franny and Jet grow up, and Vincent makes his own way, they discover that you can’t outrun your destiny.

This is more blatantly magical than the first book, where magic is talked about and hinted at, and I have to say that I loved that. I loved seeing exactly what the Owens siblings were capable of, and how they dealt with that from youth into adulthood. I don’t want to say that I liked this better than Practical Magic . . . but I think I did. The characters are so well-written I felt like I knew them, and I wanted to hug all three siblings and help them somehow. I also really appreciated the added suspense in this novel. Hoffman is a beautiful writer, and I will read anything she writes, but The Rules of Magic contains an element of suspense that she doesn’t usually include, and it worked really well. The beginning story is interesting and will keep your attention because of the characters, but the end of the book will have you reading as fast as possible to find out what happens.

Like in her other books, Hoffman sticks with some tried and true themes: family is family, being an outsider is hard, and being true to yourself is important. She uses these in a lot of her books, but never feel tired because she introduces new ideas in every story, and this one felt fresh too. I think she takes a lot of things from her own life and weaves them into her stories. Hoffman used to be notoriously private, preferring people to just read her books and ignore her, leaving her alone at home. If you read The Rules of Magic closely, that theme of the importance of home is loud and clear. No matter where the characters go, or what they go through, they always go back home. The house on Magnolia Street draws everyone back in, and remaining close to home becomes very important to all of the Owens women.

The Rules of Magic is one of Hoffman’s best works yet and, selfishly, I hope she writes more about the Owens family, because I cannot get enough. This is great all year, but especially perfect for your nightstand in October!



Review: Romancing the Throne

Romancing the Throne

As an American, I’m thoroughly obsessed with all things royal. William and Kate, Elizabeth, Diana, those castles. I love all of it. However, most of the books I read surrounding those subjects are non-fiction. I love the history of it all too! But I was ready for a light and fluffy book to break up my reading pile, and I knew it had to be Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney.

Two sisters, the fashion-conscious Charlotte and studious Libby, are away at separate boarding schools after their family moves up in the social world thanks to their mom’s shoe company. Charlotte’s school, Sussex Park, is prestigious, and her group of friends includes socialites and the next King of England, Prince Edward. When an administrative scandal at Libby’s school forces her to transfer to Sussex Park, Charlotte brings her into the group. By this time, Charlotte and Edward are dating, and she wants nothing more than for her boyfriend and sister to get along. But when they start getting along a little too well, friendships and relationships are broken up, and Charlotte isn’t sure if her happily ever after will ever come.

This is a fun, light book, and if you are a fan of all things royal, you’ll probably enjoy this. It’s not as good as The Royal We, but it was still a great escapist read for this category of book. (And if you haven’t read The Royal We, add that to your list immediately! It’s basically royals fan fiction, but it’s great.) The plot is predictable, but well-written, and I read it in a couple of days because I couldn’t put it down.

While this is a fun, total escapist read, the female characters are surprisingly strong and well done. Yes, they like boys (ok, a prince), and Charlotte loves clothes and makeup, but they don’t let boys dictate their decisions or their futures. Both Charlotte and Libby are strong, smart, and ambitious, and I appreciate that in any form!

If you like women’s fiction and stories about the (fictional) royal family, definitely add Romancing the Throne to your nightstand. It’s an entertaining, quick read, and a great book to curl up with on a cool Fall night!



Review: Practical Magic

Practical Magic

There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.

Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors of all time. If her name is on the cover of a book, I will read it, and I have yet to find a book of hers that I don’t love. Practical Magic is one of her classics, and I gave it a re-read this year in anticipation of Fall (this will definitely show up on my cozy fall reads list) and her new book, The Rules of Magic, a prequel to Practical Magic. Practical Magic is the perfect example of magical realism, and the number one book I recommend to people looking for something in that genre.

Some fates are guaranteed, no matter who tries to intervene.

Gillian and Sally are members of the Owens family, a Massachusetts family known for being surrounded by odd happenings. The sisters grew up being surrounded by rumors, fear from other kids, and a bit of fear from themselves over their own untrained powers. But while the entire town seems to be afraid of the Owens family, women still show up in the middle of the night to request magical help from Gillian and Sally’s aunts, and the sisters want no part of it. But even as they try to run away from their family (both literally and figuratively), they discover that their connection to magic and each other cannot be outrun.

Alice Hoffman is such a talented writer, and she knows how to bend the rules of the real world in just the right way. Sally and Gillian are relatable, even though they’re witches, and their world seems very real, even though magic reigns. And I don’t mean pointing a wand and yelling spells magic. The magic in this book (strange concoctions, incantations, herbs) is really a way to show that these women are special, and intuitive. Hoffman uses it as a way to show how women bond together in ways not everyone understands. This is a grownup fairy tale, but more along the lines of Grimm than Disney.

While some might consider this an escapist read, I really don’t. Yes, magic is woven into the story, but there is a real theme of survival as well. The sisters and their aunts have struggled with abuse, bullying, and never really being able to fit into society, yet they continue on. They keep finding ways to get around all that and to keep living, something I think most people can relate to. And Hoffman’s writing is so beautiful that you almost forget you’re reading about tragic situations.

If you like magical realism, you will love Practical Magic. If you’re not sure about it, or you don’t usually read this genre, give this one a try. I think there are enough connections to the “real” world and common threads running through it that you might love it as well!