A Week in Books · Adele Parks · Anstey Harris · Books · Cathy Kelly · Cecelia Ahern · Elizabeth Buchan · Elizabeth Macneal · Guildford Book Festival · Katherine Center · Lisa Jewell · Literary Lowdown · Richard Roper · Romantic Novelists Association · Stacey Halls · Tracy Chevalier

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 13 Oct 2019

Welcome to this week’s round-up of what’s been going on here at Sarah’s Vignettes, on social media, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves and other bookish delights. Keep scrolling to get the lowdown, including the introduction of an ad-hoc section.

~ On the blog ~

Shelf Control

I took a break from Shelf Control this week. It’ll be back next week 🙂


The Familiars by Stacey Halls

On Monday, I shared my review for The Familiars by Stacey Halls. It’s a brilliant book!

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I chose How to Walk Away by Katherine Center.


On Friday, I was chatting with author Rhoda Baxter over on the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) blog. This was great fun to do! https://romanticnovelistsassociation.org/2019/10/sarah-swan-sarahs-vignettes-blog/

~ On my calendar ~

Adele Parks
Adele Parks

On Tuesday, I went to my local library to hear Sunday Times Bestselling Author, Adele Parks talk about her life, writing and her latest novel Lies, Lies, Lies. She also shared some top tips for any budding writers looking to get published. Adele is such a great speaker, I could listen to her stories for hours!


On Saturday, I went to Guildford Book Festival‘s Readers’ Day. With 7 authors, 1 host and books, books, books, it’s a mini festival in one day.

Tracy Chevalier chatting with Fanny Blake
Tracy Chevalier chatting with Fanny Blake

The day began with a brilliant opening session from Tracy Chevalier. She is a wonderful, fascinating speaker. She spoke with Fanny Blake (our fabulous host for the day) about her inspiration for her latest novel A Single Thread and treated us to a reading from the opening chapter. I am so looking forward to reading this book (find out what A Single Thread is about in the On my bookshelf section below).

From left to right: Fanny Blake, Lisa Jewell, Adele Parks
From left to right: Fanny Blake, Lisa Jewell, Adele Parks

The next session was over to the darker side of fiction and domestic noir with Lisa Jewell and Adele Parks. They both spoke about their latest novels The Family Upstairs and Lies, Lies, Lies and their contrasting writing processes.

From left to right: Fanny Blake, Elizabeth Macneal, Elizabeth Buchan
From left to right: Fanny Blake, Elizabeth Macneal, Elizabeth Buchan

After lunch, it was the turn of the two Elizabeths: Elizabeth Macneal and Elizabeth Buchan, to talk about their books The Doll Factory and The Museum of Broken Promises. I love that Elizabeth Macneal plans out her stories with the aid of a spreadsheet (I organise blog stuff with a spreadsheet!). Elizabeth Buchan shared some eye-opening snippets from her research trips to Berlin and Prague (settings for The Museum of Broken Promises).

From left to right: Fanny Blake, Richard Roper, Anstey Harris
From left to right: Fanny Blake, Richard Roper, Anstey Harris

The final session of the day had the audience laughing out loud. Richard Roper and Anstey Harris were the perfect duo to finish an awesome day with, chatting about their books Something to Live For and The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, their long journeys to publication and how the titles of both books changed for a US market.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 5 books (4 of them signed) to my shelves this week!

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

It is 1932, and the losses of the First World War are still keenly felt. Violet Speedwell, mourning for both her fiancé and her brother and regarded by society as a ‘surplus woman’ unlikely to marry, resolves to escape her suffocating mother and strike out alone.

A new life awaits her in Winchester. Yes, it is one of draughty boarding-houses and sidelong glances at her naked ring finger from younger colleagues; but it is also a life gleaming with independence and opportunity. Violet falls in with the broderers, a disparate group of women charged with embroidering kneelers for the Cathedral, and is soon entwined in their lives and their secrets. As the almost unthinkable threat of a second Great War appears on the horizon Violet collects a few secrets of her own that could just change everything…

The Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan

The Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan

Paris, today. The Museum of Broken Promises is a place of wonder and sadness, hope and loss. Every object in the museum has been donated – a cake tin, a wedding veil, a baby’s shoe. And each represent a moment of grief or terrible betrayal. The museum is a place where people come to speak to the ghosts of the past and, sometimes, to lay them to rest. Laure, the owner and curator, has also hidden artefacts from her own painful youth amongst the objects on display.

Prague, 1985. Recovering from the sudden death of her father, Laure flees to Prague. But life behind the Iron Curtain is a complex thing: drab and grey yet charged with danger. Laure cannot begin to comprehend the dark, political currents that run beneath the surface of this communist city. Until, that is, she meets a young dissident musician. Her love for him will have terrible and unforeseen consequences. It is only years later, having created the museum, that Laure can make finally face up to her past and celebrate the passionate love which has directed her life.

Something to Live For by Richard Roper

Something to Live For by Richard Roper

Sometimes you have to risk everything to find your something…

All Andrew wants is to be normal. He has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that’s what he’s told people.

The truth is, his life isn’t exactly as people think and his little white lie is about to catch up with him.

Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he’s forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

Grace once had the beginnings of a promising musical career, but she hasn’t been able to play her cello publicly since a traumatic event at music college years ago. Since then, she’s built a quiet life for herself in her small English village, repairing instruments and nurturing her long- distance affair with David, the man who has helped her rebuild her life even as she puts her dreams of a family on hold until his children are old enough for him to leave his loveless marriage.

But when David saves the life of a woman in the Paris Metro, his resulting fame shines a light onto the real state of the relationship(s) in his life. Shattered, Grace hits rock bottom and abandons everything that has been important to her, including her dream of entering and winning the world’s most important violin-making competition. Her closest friends–a charming elderly violinist with a secret love affair of his own, and her store clerk, a gifted but angst-ridden teenage girl–step in to help, but will their friendship be enough to help her pick up the pieces?


I treated myself to Postscript by Cecelia Ahern. It is the sequel to P.S. I Love You and I am intrigued to find out what happens next.

Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

It’s been seven years since Holly Kennedy’s husband died – six since she read his final letter, urging Holly to find the courage to forge a new life.

She’s proud of all the ways in which she has grown and evolved. But when a group inspired by Gerry’s letters, calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, approaches Holly asking for help, she finds herself drawn back into a world that she worked so hard to leave behind.

Reluctantly, Holly begins a relationship with the club, even as their friendship threatens to destroy the peace she believes she has achieved. As each of these people calls upon Holly to help them leave something meaningful behind for their loved ones, Holly will embark on a remarkable journey – one that will challenge her to ask whether embracing the future means betraying the past, and what it means to love someone forever…

~ On my bedside table ~

The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

I’m currently reading The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly ahead of my stop on the blog tour on 23rd October.


What have you been reading and buying this week? Let me know by leaving a reply in the box below.

Until next week, happy reading!

A Week in Books · Advanced Review Copy · Books · Books Are My Bag · Bookshop Day · Christine Mangan · Clare Mulley · Eleanor O'Reilly · Elizabeth Macneal · Emma Donoghue · Evelyn Waugh · Fiona Harper · Literary Lowdown · Shelf Control · Stacey Halls · Val Emmich

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 6 Oct 2019

Welcome to this week’s round-up of what’s been going on here at Sarah’s Vignettes, on social media, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves and other bookish delights. Keep scrolling to get the lowdown, especially for my write-up of Books Are My Bag Bookshop Day.

~ On the blog ~

Shelf Control

On Wednesday, I took part in a meme run by fellow book blogger Lisa over at Bookshelf Fantasies called Shelf Control. The idea is to choose a book on your bookshelf that you haven’t read yet and talk about when you got it and why you want to read it.

This week, I chose a book from my proof/review bookshelf: M for Mammy by Eleanor O’Reilly.

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I chose The Memory Collector by Fiona Harper.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I need more storage space since I added 6 books to my shelves this week!

Books Are My Bag Bookshop Day 
Saturday 5 October

Saturday 5 October was the annual Books Are My Bag Bookshop Day, which celebrates both chains and independents nationwide. Bookshops can get involved as much as they like and there is always are great buzz. I visited my local Waterstones and Haslemere Bookshop. But before I talk more about that, I must mention the beautiful Books Are My Bag Bookshop Day tote bag.

Bookshop Day would not be complete without the obligatory Books Are My Bag Bookshop Day tote bag produced to mark the day. This year’s bag was designed by Yehrin Tong and it is stunning. I have several of the Books Are My Bag tote bags. each design is unique and they are robust enough to carry lots of books.

Front of Books Are My Bag tote bag
Back of Books Are My Bag tote bag
Books Are My Bag tote bag full of books

In the morning, I popped into my local Waterstones, where I bought the Books Are My Bag Bookshop Day tote bag and a signed copy of Akin by Emma Donoghue. I’ve read some great reviews about Akin and it is set in one of my favourite places.

Akin by Emma Donoghue

A retired New York professor’s life is thrown into chaos when he takes a young great-nephew to the French Riviera, in hopes of uncovering his own mother’s wartime secrets in the next masterpiece from New York Times bestselling author Emma Donoghue.

Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.

Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.

Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room an international bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy, born two generations apart, who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.


The Haslemere Bookshop

In the afternoon, I took a trip to Haslemere Bookshop, an independent bookshop on the Surrey and Sussex border. They were having a party! Not only were they celebrating Bookshop Day but it was also their 5th Birthday. There was cake, music and illustrations. The atmosphere was wonderful and the staff are always so friendly.

Haslemere Bookshop window decorated for Books Are My Bag Bookshop Day
5th Birthday Cake
Illustrator
Books Are My Bag bookmarks decorating the shelves

The shop has two floors. On the ground floor, the shelves are bursting with new releases, children’s books and gifts. On the top floor, each room is filled with second hand books. There is even a second hand book cupboard with nearly new books!

They even had their own Blind Date with a Book. I picked a book described as ‘A grieving man meets a remarkable child’ and ‘charming’.

Blind Date with a Book
Blind Date with a Book

My Blind Date is with: The Reminders by Val Emmich (published in 2017). This is a new book and author for me so I am looking forward to reading it.

The Reminders by Val Emmich

The Reminders by Val Emmich

Grief-stricken over his partner Sydney’s death, Gavin sets fire to every reminder in the couple’s home before fleeing Los Angeles for New Jersey, where he hopes to find peace with the family of an old friend. Instead, he finds Joan.

Joan, the family’s ten-year-old daughter, was born Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, or HSAM: the rare ability to recall every day of her life in cinematic detail. Joan has never met Gavin until now, but she did know his partner, and waiting inside her uncanny mind are startlingly vivid memories to prove it.

Gavin strikes a deal with Joan: in return for sharing her memories of Sydney, Gavin will help her win a songwriting contest she’s convinced will make her unforgettable. The unlikely duo set off on their quest until Joan reveals unexpected details about Sydney’s final months, forcing Gavin to question not only the purity of his past with Sydney but the course of his own immediate future.

Told in the alternating voices of these two irresistible characters,The Reminders is a hilarious and tender exploration of loss, memory, friendship, and renewal.

I had a good mooch around the bookshop and here are the other books I bought:

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

The Doll Factory, the debut novel by Elizabeth Macneal, is an intoxicating story of art, obsession and possession.

London. 1850. The Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and among the crowd watching the spectacle two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the strange and beautiful, that meeting marks a new beginning.

When Iris is asked to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.

But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening . . .

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

A beautiful clothbound edition of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel of duty and desire set against the backdrop of the faded glory of the English aristocracy in the run-up to the Second World War.

The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh’s novels, Brideshead Revisited looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder’s infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian Flyte at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognise his spiritual and social distance from them.

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

The Women Who Flew For Hitler by Clare Mulley

The Women Who Flew For Hitler by Clare Mulley

Hanna Reitsch and Melitta von Stauffenberg were talented, courageous, and strikingly attractive women who fought convention to make their names in the male-dominated field of flight in 1930s Germany. With the war, both became pioneering test pilots and were awarded the Iron Cross for service to the Third Reich. But they could not have been more different and neither woman had a good word to say for the other.

Hanna was middle-class, vivacious, and distinctly Aryan, while the darker, more self-effacing Melitta came from an aristocratic Prussian family. Both were driven by deeply held convictions about honor and patriotism; but ultimately, while Hanna tried to save Hitler’s life, begging him to let her fly him to safety in April 1945, Melitta covertly supported the most famous attempt to assassinate the Fuhrer. Their interwoven lives provide vivid insight into Nazi Germany and its attitudes toward women, class, and race.

Acclaimed biographer Clare Mulley gets under the skin of these two distinctive and unconventional women, giving a full–and as yet largely unknown–account of their contrasting yet strangely parallel lives, against a changing backdrop of the 1936 Olympics, the Eastern Front, the Berlin Air Club, and Hitler’s bunker. Told with brio and great narrative flair, The Women Who Flew For Hitler is an extraordinary true story, with all the excitement and color of the best fiction.

I had a fun day celebrating local bookshops. Here are several reasons as to why it’s important to visit our bookshops all year round:

~ On my bedside table ~

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

I’ve got 100 pages of The Familiars by Stacey Halls to go. It’s a great read!


What have you been reading and buying this week? Let me know by leaving a reply in the box below.

Until next week, happy reading!