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!

Books · fiction · Reviews · Stacey Halls

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: The Familiars by Stacey Halls (@stacey_halls) ~ @ZaffreBooks ~ #TheFamiliars

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

~ My thoughts ~

What a brilliant book and definitely not what I expected. To tell you the truth, I’m not completely sure what I expected from The Familiars. Set in 1600s Lancashire and based around the Pendle Witch trials, it’s a period in English history I know little about nor an era I usually enjoy stories set in. However, Stacey Halls contemporary writing style, with some language from the period interweaved here and there, helped me settle into the story easily.

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is the 17 year old mistress of Gawthorpe Hall and protagonist of The Familiars. The story follows Fleetwood as she seeks help to carry a baby full term. She is also a real person as were her husband Richard Shuttleworth, Alice Gray, one of the witches on trial, and many other characters in the novel. I love it when an author takes a real place (Gawthorpe Hall is in Padiham, Lancashire), people and events and writes a story from it. Stacey Halls is a natural storyteller and takes the reader on a journey through life in Lancashire, what it was to be a women during the time of the Pendle Witch trials, and one brave young woman’s quest to seek the truth.

The Familiars is a cleverly structured and beautifully written debut. It draws on the strengths of women and the power of female friendships in a time dominated by men, where women were seen and treated as inferior, their place very much in the home. They were to be seen and not heard. Stacey Halls has created a woman ahead of her time in Fleetwood Shuttleworth. Fleetwood is a strong woman and as we go through the story, we understand her nature.

For me, reading a physical copy of a book starts with the cover. I read a hardback copy of this book and what a beautiful copy it is. The cover designer has done an excellent job of pulling out the key elements of the story. The blue leaf of each page really finishes it off. 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Familiars and I am really looking forward to reading Stacey Halls next book The Foundling, due to be published in February 2020.

~ Where to find The Familiars ~

The Paperback edition of The Familiars was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 24 September 2019. It can be found in all good bookshops, on Amazon UK, Amazon US and on Goodreads.

~ About Stacey Halls ~

Author Stacey Halls

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor. The Familiars is her first novel.

~ W: http://www.thefamiliarsbook.com/

~ T: @stacey_halls

~ I: @staceyhallsauthor

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!

Advanced Review Copy · Anne Griffin · Books · Claire Dyer · fiction · Katherine Center · Kerry Fisher · Lisa Jewell · Literary Lowdown · Liz Fenwick · Shelf Control · Stacey Halls

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 29/01/2019

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.

~ 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 digital bookshelf: The Island Escape by Kerry Fisher. How inviting is the cover!

The Island  Escape by Kerry Fisher

~ On social media ~

On Friday, I shared my top 3 reads from 2018 as part of the R3COMM3ND3D2018 feature at demppebbles.com. This was a difficult choice as I read many good books last year but these 3 really stood out for me:

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 2 fiction books to my shelves this week.

The Foundling by Stacey Halls

On Thursday, I went to a Proof Party for The Foundling by Stacey Halls. Hosted by Zaffre Books at the beautiful Brunswick House, the event was for bloggers, press, booksellers to celebrate Stacey’s second novel that comes out in February 2020 and to pick up a review (proof) copy of the book.

Brunswick House

The Foundling is set in Georgian times so the venue was perfect – Brunswick House is a Georgian mansion – and there was a silhouette artist, cutting out our profiles. Silhouettes were given to loved ones back in that period as a momento. There was also a beautifully decorated table with it’s own light, ideal for our instagram worthy photos from the night.

Silhouetter
The Shadow Cutter
The Shadow Cutter
Book blogger at work
Photo courtesy of Evdokia at Velvet Reads Books

Stacey Halls gave a lovely speech, telling us about how The Foundling came to be and she read from the first chapter – it’s going to be good!! There was also a quick introduction from The Foundling Museum, where the book is set – the museum is well worth a visit.

Stacey Halls

The Foundling by Stacey Halls

The Foundling by Stacey Halls

London, 1754.

Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst – that Clara has died in care – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed – by her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why. Less than a mile from Bess’ lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.

From the bestselling author of The Familiars, and set against the vibrant backdrop of Georgian London, The Foundling explores families, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood.

The Foundling by Stacey Halls

I treated myself to a copy of When All is Said by Anne Griffin this weekend. I’ve heard lots of good things about this story and it sounds like my kind of read.

When All is Said by Anne Griffin

When All is Said by Anne Griffin

‘I’m here to remember – all that I have been and all that I will never be again.’

At the bar of a grand hotel in a small Irish town sits 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan. He’s alone, as usual -though tonight is anything but. Pull up a stool and charge your glass, because Maurice is finally ready to tell his story.

Over the course of this evening, he will raise five toasts to the five people who have meant the most to him. Through these stories – of unspoken joy and regret, a secret tragedy kept hidden, a fierce love that never found its voice – the life of one man will be powerfully and poignantly laid bare.

Heart-breaking and heart-warming all at once, the voice of Maurice Hannigan will stay with you long after all is said.

~ On my bedside table ~

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

I finished The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell – excellent read. I’m now back to The Familiars by Stacey Halls and I cannot put it down!


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 · Adele Parks · Ali Pantony · Anna Hope · Books · Carol Drinkwater · Claire Dyer · Fiona Harper · Katherine Center · Linn B. Halton · Lisa Jewell · Literary Lowdown · Liz Fenwick · Malorie Blackman · Mary Beth Keane · Non-Fiction · Rachael English · Rachel Rhys · Rowan Coleman · Shelf Control · Stacey Halls · Tom Mole · Victoria Hislop

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 08/09/2019

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. Lots of things happened this week!!

~ On the blog ~

Shelf Control

On Friday, 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 Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys.

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I shared the link to my review for The American Girl by Rachael English. I don’t know what it is about the works of Irish writers but there is something so comfortable and familiar about their writing that make them natural storytellers, and Rachael English is one of them.

On Friday, #NationalReadABookDay was trending on Twitter so I shared some of my favourite authors whose books I’ve read and reviewed on here.

Rowan Coleman ~ Liz Fenwick ~ Carol Drinkwater ~ Claire Dyer ~ Linn B. Halton ~ Rachael English ~ Katherine Center ~ Ali Pantony ~ Fiona Harper ~ Victoria Hislop

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 5 books to my shelf this week.

On Wednesday, I received a copy of The Secret Life of Books by Tom Mole from the fab team at Elliott & Thompson, due to be published on 19th September. I enjoy reading any non-fiction books on the subjects of language, linguistics and books so I think this one will be right up my street!

The Secret Life of Books by Tom Mole

The Secret Life of Books by Tom Mole

We love books. We take them to bed with us. They weigh down our suitcases when we go on holiday. We display them on our bookshelves or store them in our attics. We give them as gifts. We write our names in them. We take them for granted. And all the time, our books are leading a double life.

The Secret Life of Books is about everything that isn’t just the words. It’s about how books transform us as individuals. It’s about how books – and readers – have evolved over time. And it’s about why, even with the arrival of other media, books still have the power to change our lives.

In this illuminating account, Tom Mole looks at everything from binding innovations to binding errors, to books defaced by lovers, to those imprisoning professors in their offices, to books in art, to burned books, to the books that create nations, to those we’ll leave behind.

It will change how you think about books.


On Thursday night, I went to an author event at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road. Mary Beth Keane and Anna Hope were talking about their latest books Ask Again, Yes and Expectation with Alison Barrow from Penguin Random House.

I love hearing the stories behind the story – how the book came to be what it is. I read and reviewed Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane for the blog tour so I was intrigued to find out more about it. Expectation by Anna Hope sounds brilliant and I made the good mistake of reading the first page on the train home – wow, the writing. I was drawn in from the first sentence!!

I bumped into Nina Pottell, Books Editor from PRIMA magazine and Leilah Skelton from Little Tiger whilst I was there.

Alison Barrow, Mary Beth Keane and Anna Hope
From left to right: Alison Barrow, Mary Beth Keane, Anna Hope

Me with Nina Pottell, Books Editor from Prima magazine
Me with Nina Pottell

Expectation by Anna Hope

A contemporary feminist take on the pursuit of happiness: three women think they can have it all. Until they realise that even having some of it can be a challenge.

Love, children, career – modern women are expected to have all three. But what must they sacrifice to win any of them, and how much heartache must be endured? Three life-long friends are about to find out.

Can Hannah, a successful career woman with a caring husband have the baby she longs for?

Will Cate, a thoughtful, loving wife and mother ever recover her intellectual life and independence?

Lissa is charismatic, beautiful and unconventional. She chose a life of fulfilment in the theatre over settled domesticity – but will it ever really materialise?

Anna Hope’s fierce and compelling novel of friendship and the pressure to succeed as a woman takes three lives and asks, what does it really take to make us happy?


When I was 15, I borrowed a copy of Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman from my school library. I devoured it and was blown away by it. It was so ahead of it’s time. 17 years later, Crossfire , the sequel to Noughts & Crosses , is out and I found a signed copy of it in Waterstones Guildford yesterday.

Crossfire by Malorie Blackman

Thirty-four years have passed since Sephy Hadley – a Cross – first met Callum McGregor – a nought. Their love was forbidden, powerful – and deadly.

Life is seemingly very different now for noughts and Crosses – including for Sephy and Callum’s families. But old wounds from the past are hard to heal, and when you’re playing a game as dangerous as they are, it won’t be long before someone gets caught in the crossfire.


Me with Adele Parks
Me with Adele Parks

Whilst I was waiting in the queue to pay for Crossfire , I bumped into Adele Parks! She had popped into the shop to sign copies of her latest novel Lies, Lies, Lies , which was published on Thursday.

Lies, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks

Lies, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks

Daisy and Simon’s marriage is great, isn’t it? After years together, the arrival of longed-for daughter Millie sealed everything in place. A happy little family of three. And so what if Simon drinks a bit too much sometimes – Daisy’s used to it, she knows he’s letting off steam. Until one night at a party things spiral horribly out of control. And that happy little family of three will never be the same again.

In Lies Lies Lies, Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks explores the darkest corners of a relationship in freefall in a mesmerising tale of marriage and secrets.


I also bought a copy of The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell. Lisa is one of the speakers at Guildford Book Festival’s Readers’ Day next month and I wanted to try to read it before the event.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.

In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.

They’ve been dead for several days.

Who has been looking after the baby?

And where did they go?

Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.
A compulsive new thriller from Lisa Jewell.

~ On my bedside table ~

I’m reading The Familiars by Stacey Halls at the moment. The story is set in the 1600s, which is not a period in history I usually read or know much about. It’s an intriguing story!


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 · Blog Tours · Book Post · Books · Cathy Kelly · fiction · Giveaway · Hans Fallada · Kathleen McGurl · Linn B. Halton · Literary Lowdown · Lucy Foley · Rosanna Ley · Rowan Coleman · Stacey Halls · Sylvia Day

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 1/09/2019

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.

~ On the blog ~

The Stationmaster's Daughter by Kathleen McGurl

On Monday, I shared my review for The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl, as part of the blog tour. It’s a poignant story set between 1936 and present day. I love a time slip novel!


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 Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley.

Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley

On Friday, it was Sarah’s Vignettes stop on the blog tour for Butterfly in Frost, the latest novel by Sylvia Day. I didn’t have time to read this one for a review so I hosted a giveaway to win a copy of the book.

Butterfly in Frost by Sylvia Day

~ On social media ~

Last weekend, author Rowan Coleman asked readers who had reviewed her latest novel The Girl at the Window if they would be brave enough to film a few words to be included in a promotion video for social media. I and a few others summoned up the courage and did it. Here’s the final version:


For #ThrowbackThursday, I shared the link to my review for The Secrets of Villa Rosso by Linn B. Halton. This is a great story and Linn has a way of writing characters that I connect deeply with.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 3 books to my shelf this week.

In October, I am taking part in the blog tour for Cathy Kelly’s 20th novel, The Family Gift . On Tuesday, I received a little gift from Orion: a proof copy of the book and a some chocolate.

The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

Freya Abalone has a big, messy, wonderful family, a fantastic career, and a new house.

But that’s on the outside.

On the inside, she’s got Mildred – the name she’s given to that nagging inner critic who tells us all we’re not good enough.

And now Freya’s beloved blended family is under threat. Dan’s first wife Elisa, the glamorous, manipulative woman who happily abandoned her daughter to Freya and Dan’s care and left the country, has elbowed her way back into their lives.

But Freya knows that when life gives you lemons, you throw them right back.

Can Freya put her family – and herself – back together? Find out in Cathy Kelly’s warmest, wisest and funniest book yet…


I may have been lured into my local Waterstones yesterday – it doesn’t take much at all!! I bought a gorgeous hardback copy of The Familiars by Stacey Halls and another of Penguins Modern Classics to add to my growing collection : Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all . . .

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong. 

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? 

Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake. 

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.


Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Inspired by a true story, Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin  is the gripping tale of an ordinary man’s determination to defy the tyranny of Nazi rule. This Penguin Classics edition contains an afterword by Geoff Wilkes, as well as facsimiles of the original Gestapo file which inspired the novel.

Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels’ necks …

~ On my bedside table ~

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

In last week’s round-up, I mentioned that I had just started reading The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I finished it in 3 days! It’s a great read and I’ll be sharing my review on here soon.


FRANCE magazine, NB, Writing magazine

I sometimes take a bit of a break when I’m in between books so I have been dipping in and out of the latest issues of FRANCE magazine, NB, and Writing magazine.


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!