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A Sarah's Vignettes Book Review: The Foundling by Stacey Halls (@stacey_halls) ~ @ZaffreBooks @bonnierbooks_uk ~ @Tr4cyF3nt0n #BlogTour

I am thrilled to be sharing my review of The Foundling by Stacey Halls today. I loved Stacey’s debut novel, The Familiars (read my review) so I was excited to get a chance to read The Foundling ahead of its publication. I was lucky to get my hands on an early copy at a proof party last September but I’ve only just had a chance to read it.

My thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour and to Manilla Press, for the proof copy of the book.

Before I share my review with you, here is what The Foundling is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Two women, bound by a child, and a secret that will change everything . . .

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, she is astonished when she is told she has already claimed 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’s 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 comes this captivating story of mothers and daughters, class and power, and love against the greatest of odds . . .

~ My thoughts ~

Two years ago, I went to The Foundling Museum in Brunswick, London to a book talk. Before the event, we had a chance to look around the museum. One thing that really struck a chord with me were the tokens each mother left when she handed over her baby to the care of the Foundling Hospital. If a mother ever returned to collect her child, she could be identified by the token. Women would mainly leave a piece of fabric from their dresses – one of their few possessions. It was heartbreaking to see the objects on display but stories about the objects owners started playing around in my head. When I went to a party to celebrate The Foundling, Stacey Halls spoke about how the tokens had inspired her novel. In The Foundling, Bess Bright leaves half of a heart made from whalebone when she leaves her baby Clara at the hospital, just hours after her birth.

The Foundling really touched me. The book starts off with Bess going to the Foundling Hospital to hand over Clara because she doesn’t have enough money to care for her. There is a particular event that takes place at the hospital for the benefactors so they can watch mothers handing over their babies. This felt so cruel and unkind. As the book progresses to 6 years later, Bess has worked hard to save all earnings to care for her daughter and returns to the hospital to collect Clara, only to find that another woman got there first. We then follow Bess’s journey to track down her daughter and the woman claiming to be Clara’s mother.

I really liked the character of Bess. She is a strong woman to have handed over her daughter, hoping it would give her a better life. The pain of losing her child and the determination to find her screams off of the pages. Stacey Halls puts so much emotion into her writing. A mother’s love knows no bounds.

The story alternates between Bess’s story and the story of Alexandra Callard. Alexandra is a young widow who has become a recluse, which means her daughter Charlotte does not leave the house either. Alexandra is a cold woman and I did not warm to her until the end of the story. Alexandra’s story is a powerful one and I felt sorry for her.

Bess and Alexandra’s lives are complete contrasts and highlight the class and power struggles at the time. Bess, living in one room with her brother and father, selling fish at the market, saving all the money she can. Alexandra, wealthy and living in a townhouse in Bloomsbury with two servants and Charlotte. Both women’s personalities are contrasts too: Bess, loving and caring; Alexandra, cold and unfeeling.

1700s London is a period of history I am unfamiliar with and I actually don’t feel that comfortable reading historical fiction set in that time. Maybe because I don’t know much about it and I usually find the stories hard work to read. However, Stacey Halls intelligent writing made it easy to read and get into the story. She uses language from the time but yet her prose still feels contemporary. I’ve learnt a lot about London’s history too, for example, how you paid a linkboy to light your path on your journey because there were obviously no street lights – not sure why this has stayed with me! Stacey Halls attention to detail is strong and it plays with the senses like the noise of the carts on the cobbles, the smell of fish in Billingsgate market.

I really enjoyed The Foundling. I think it is equally as good as The Familiars , if not better – they are both outstanding reads – and I am curious to see whose story Stacey Halls tells next.

~ Where to find The Foundling ~

The Foundling by Stacey Halls

The Foundling by Stacey Halls was published in hardback by Manilla Press in the UK on 6 February 2020. It can be found in all good bookshops as well at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ About Stacey Halls ~

Stacey Halls
Stacey Halls

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. 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 worked as a journalist for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine. TV rights of The Familiars have been sold to The Bureau production company.

Bought in a nine-way auction, The Familiars was received with much praise and is nominated for an HWA award. Say hello to @stacey_halls on Twitter and @staceyhallsauthor on Instagram.

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Be sure to drop by the other stops on the The Foundling blog tour!

The Foundling by Stacey Halls blog tour poster
A Week in Books · Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Book events · Book Hauls · Book Post · Books · Crime · fiction · Glynis Peters · Laura Jane Williams · Libby Page · Literary Lowdown · Lucy Foley · Review Copy · Reviews · Rory Clements

Sarah's Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 20 January – 26 January 2020

Welcome to this week’s round-up of book life at Sarah’s Vignettes.

Keep scrolling to get the lowdown on what’s been going on here at Sarah’s Vignettes, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves and other bookish delights.

~ On the blog ~

Hitler's Secret by Rory Clements

On Monday, I shared my review of Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements. It’s a gritty, dark, historical spy thriller that took me on quite a journey. 

On Thursday, it was a pleasure to promote The Orphan Thief by Glynis Peters.

~ On my calendar ~

An Evening with Libby Page and Laura Jane Williams

On Thursday evening, I went with fellow book bloggers Meggy, Rachel and Karen to An Evening with Libby Page and Laura Jane Williams at Waterstones Piccadilly, London.

It was publication day for Libby Page’s latest novel The 24-Hour Café and she joined author Laura Jane Williams to celebrate it. It was a fun evening, hearing all about Libby’s inspiration for the story, her love of outdoor swimming and her writing.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I’ve added 2 books to my shelf this week.

At the event on Thursday, I took the chance to get a signed hardback copy of The 24-Hour Café . It looks lovely alongside my signed hardback of Libby’s debut novel, The Lido.

The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page

The 24-Hour Cafe by Libby Page

Welcome to the café that never sleeps. Day and night Stella’s Café opens its doors for the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It is many things to many people but most of all it is a place where life can wait at the door. A place of small kindnesses. A place where anyone can be whoever they want, where everyone is always welcome.

Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They work at Stella’s but they dream of more, of leaving the café behind and making their own way in life.

Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella’s Café; a day when Hannah and Mona’s friendship will be tested, when the community will come together and when lives will be changed…


The other book I added to my shelf this week is a hardback copy of The Guest List by Lucy Foley, out on 20th February. The lovely people at Harper Collins kindly sent me a copy to read ahead of the blog tour next month. I am so excited to read it. I loved The Hunting Party, Lucy’s debut, and The Guest List sounds just as good.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater.
 
Old friends.
Past grudges.

 
Happy families.
Hidden jealousies.

 
Thirteen guests.
One body.

 
The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.

All have a secret. All have a motive.
One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .

~ On my bedside table ~

The 24-Hour Cafe by Libby Page

I’m currently reading The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page and can confirm it is good! Watch out for my review this Friday, 31 January.


What books 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 · Blog Tours · Books · fiction · Review Copy · Reviews · Rory Clements

A Sarah's Vignettes Book Review: Hitler's Secret by Rory Clements ~ @ZaffreBooks ~ @Tr4cyF3nt0n #BlogTour

It’s a real pleasure to be kicking off the blog tour for Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements.

Thank you to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Zaffre for sending me a digital copy of the book via NetGalley in return for this honest review.

Before I share my review with you, here is what Hitler’s Secret is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

In the Autumn of 1941, the war is going badly for Britain and its allies. If the tide is going to be turned against Hitler, a new weapon is desperately needed.

In Cambridge, brilliant history professor Tom Wilde is asked by an American intelligence officer to help smuggle a mysterious package out of Nazi Germany – something so secret, even Hitler himself doesn’t know of its existence.

Posing as a German-American industrialist, Wilde soon discovers the shocking truth about the ‘package’, and why the Nazis will stop at nothing to prevent it leaving Germany. With ruthless killers loyal to Martin Bormann hunting him down, Wilde makes a desperate gamble on an unlikely escape route. But even if he reaches England alive, that will not be the end of his ordeal. Wilde is now convinced that the truth he has discovered must remain hidden, even if it means betraying the country he loves . . .

~ My thoughts ~

When the invitation for this blog tour popped into my inbox, I was quite excited as I enjoy reading stories set in World War 2. Hitler’s Secret is quite different to other books I’ve read from this period though. It’s a gritty, dark, historical spy thriller that took me on quite a journey. 

When history professor Tom Wilde is asked to go undercover to Germany to pick up a ‘package’ to smuggle back to England, I’m not even sure he realises what he is taking on. What ensues is espionage, Boorman’s men chasing Wilde across land and sea who will do anything, and I mean anything, to destroy the package, mortal danger as well as other things that come with war: road blocks, checkpoints, not knowing who to trust, the list is endless. 

I thought the story was well plotted, researched and flowed. There are quite a few characters in the story so I had to concentrate a little but it soon become clear how they all fit together. I really like Tom Wilde as a character. He is a decent man and makes a brilliant agent.

Hitler’s Secret is the 4th book in a series featuring Tom Wilde. I’ve not read the other books in the series nor experienced Rory Clements writing before. I felt that it was fine to read as a standalone novel. However, I do like a back story and would love to know more about Wilde’s background and what missions he has been sent on in the past. This was a mission and half to say the least. I will definitely be reading the other books in the Tom Wilde series.

~ Where to find Hitler’s Secret ~

Hitler's Secret by Rory Clements

Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements will be published by Zaffre in the UK on 23rd January 2020. It’s available to pre-order from all good bookshops as well at Amazon UK, Amazon US and can also be found on Goodreads.

~ About Rory Clements ~

Rory Clements

RORY CLEMENTS is a Sunday Times bestselling author. He is twice winner of the CWA Historical Dagger Award, most recently in 2018 for Nucleus, the second Tom Wilde novel. A TV series of Rory’s previous series, the John Shakespeare novels, is currently in development. Rory lives in Norfolk with his family. Find out more at www.roryclements.co.uk

*Author photograph from Goodreads

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Be sure to drop by the other stops on the Hitler’s Secret blog tour!

A Week in Books · Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Book Hauls · Books · Crime · fiction · Libby Page · Literary Lowdown · R.C. Bridgestock · Rebecca Ley · Recommended Reads · Review Copy · Reviews · Rory Clements

Sarah's Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 13 January – 19 January 2020 #SundayBlogShare

Welcome to this week’s round-up of book life at Sarah’s Vignettes.

Keep scrolling to get the lowdown on what’s been going on here at Sarah’s Vignettes, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves and other bookish delights.

~ On the blog ~

Payback by R.C. Bridgestock

On Tuesday, I shared my review of Payback by R.C. Bridgestock. This is the first book in a new series from husband and wife co-authors Robert and Carol Bridgestock and I loved it! It is a professional, all-consuming crime novel that left me wanting more.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I’ve added 1 book to my shelf this week. It is a digital advanced review copy of For When I’m Gone by Rebecca Ley, which is due to be published on 14th May 2020. This is Rebecca’s debut novel and, although I think it will be tough to read emotionally, I’m looking forward to discovering her writing.

For When I’m Gone by Rebecca Ley

For When I'm Gone by Rebecca Ley

A life cut short. A grieving family. A mother’s guide to surviving without her…

On the surface Sylvia and Paul’s marriage is perfection: she is beautiful, alluringly spiky and brilliantly clever, he is a devoted and doting husband and father to their two young children, Megan and Jude.

When Sylvia is diagnosed with terminal cancer at 38, she knows that she must help Paul navigate the chaos of family life in her absence and that the time has come for a secret she has kept from him throughout their marriage to finally be aired. Sylvia starts to write a manual: a guidebook to their shared domesticity.

As Paul learns to live and love without Sylvia, he realises the extent of her legacy and finds himself indebted once more to his extraordinary, difficult wife, for saving them from an even greater tragedy…

FOR WHEN I’M GONE is about what it means to leave life unfinished, as well as the compromises of a marriage and motherhood. Inspiring and heart-breaking in equal measure, this debut marks Rebecca Ley out as a stunning new talent.

~ On my bedside table ~

Hitler's Secret by Rory Clements
The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page

Yesterday, I finished reading Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements. Watch out for my review tomorrow. I’m going to read The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page next.


What books 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 · Blog Tours · Books · fiction · R.C. Bridgestock · Review Copy · Reviews

A Sarah's Vignettes Book Review: Payback by R.C. Bridgestock (@RCBridgestock) ~ @DomePress #BlogTour

I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the Payback blog tour. I loved this book and I am so excited to be able to share it with you.

Thank you to Emily Glenister at The Dome Press for inviting me to take part in the tour and for sending me a proof copy of the book in return for this honest review.

Before I share my review with you, here is what Payback is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Charley Mann left Yorkshire for the Met and a fast-track career – but now she’s back, she’s in charge and the area’s first young, female DI.

Her hometown, the Yorkshire countryside, and her old friends all seem unchanged but appearances can be deceptive.

When a brutal murder is discovered, Charley is forced to question everything, and the interest of her ex – reporter Danny Ray – doesn’t make it easier.

~ My thoughts ~

This is the first novel I’ve read by the crime writing duo R.C. Bridgestock and I loved it. I am really pleased that I have discovered their excellent writing at the beginning of the DI Charley Mann series.

I’m quite partial to watching a British detective tv drama and that’s what Payback feels like. My imagination was the screen. There is such a high level of detail that I could see the story vividly – even the bits I didn’t want to see.

R.C. Bridgestock’s wealth of police experience is evident throughout the story. Payback is a step by step account of police process and procedure, from crime scene, informing press, setting up the incident room, press conference, to following up on leads, interviewing suspects, closing a case. Most of one chapter is the post mortem on a body. It is brilliantly done and felt like a scene from Silent Witness. 

DI Charley Mann is the protagonist and our narrator. I really warmed to her. She is in her late twenties and has just returned from working in the Met to her home town where she has a lot to prove as the youngest DI in her area. As the story progresses, we learn about Charley and what makes her tick. I feel we have only just touched the surface with Charley’s story and there is a lot more to come from her.

All of the characters are well developed. There are old time police officers, young police officers wanting to make an impression on their new boss, the station cleaner that looks after everyone and so on. I felt a part of this police station and investigation.

Payback is a brilliant, professional, all-consuming crime novel that has left me wanting more. I am really looking forward to the next book in the series. I highly recommend this book!

~ Where to find Payback ~

Payback by R.C. Bridgestock

Payback by R.C. Bridgestock was published in the UK by The Dome Press on 9th January 2020. It can be found in all good bookshops as well at Amazon UK, Amazon US and on Goodreads.

~ About R.C. Bridgestock ~

R.C. Bridgestock is the name that husband and wife co-authors Robert (Bob) and Carol Bridgestock write under. Between them they have nearly 50 years of police experience, offering an authentic edge to their stories. The writing duo created the character DI Jack Dylan, the ninth book of which was published by The Dome Press in 2019, along with their backlist.

Bob was a highly commended career detective of 30 years, retiring at the rank of Detective Superintendent. During his last three years, he took charge of 26 murders, 23 major incidents, over 50 suspicious deaths and numerous sexual assaults. He was also a trained hostage negotiator with suicide interventions, kidnap, terrorism and extortion. Bob was seconded to a protracted enquiry investigating alleged police corruption in another force. He worked on the Yorkshire Ripper and Sarah Harper murder, and received praise from Crown Court Judges and Chief Constables alike for outstanding work at all ranks, including winning the much-coveted Dennis Hoban Trophy.

As a police civilian supervisor, Carol also received a Chief Constable’s commendation for outstanding work.

The couple are the storyline consultants / police procedural on BAFTA-winning BBC1 police drama Happy Valley and series 3 of ITV’s Scott and Bailey, and are presently working with Scott Free Production scriptwriters on two commissioned TV drama series.

The couple pride themselves on being up-to-date on past and present day UK police procedures, and as a result, Bob is regularly sought by UK television, radio and national and local newspapers for comment on developing major crime incidents etc. They have also taken part in BBC Radio 4 (Steve) PUNT P.I.

Carol and Bob are also patrons and ambassadors for several charities.

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Be sure to drop by the other stops on the Payback blog tour!

Payback Blog Tour
Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · fiction · Megan Angelo · Review Copy · Reviews

A Sarah's Vignettes Book Review: Followers by Megan Angelo (@meganangelo) ~ @HQstories #BlogTour

Welcome to my stop on the Followers blog tour. Thank you to HQ, Harper Collins, for inviting me to take part in the tour and for sending me a proof copy of the book in return for this honest review.

Before I share my review with you, here is what Followers is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

When everyone is watching you can run, but you can’t hide…

2051. Marlow and her mother, Floss, have been handpicked to live their lives on camera, in the closed community of Constellation.

Unlike her mother, who adores the spotlight, Marlow hates having her every move judged by a national audience.

But she isn’t brave enough to escape until she discovers a shattering secret about her birth.

Now she must unravel the truth around her own history in a terrifying race against time…

~ My thoughts ~

Well this was an interesting read indeed. It took me a while to get my head around what I had read and the journey I had been on as a reader.

Followers is well written, intelligently constructed and thought-provoking. In this debut, Megan Angelo looks at friendship, our internet obsessed culture, privacy, the choices we make and their ramifications. It gives a chilling and unsettling view into the not so distant future.

As the book title suggests, Followers deep dives into lives lived through the digital world, mainly social media, and what it means to have your 15 minutes of fame. Set between 2015 and 2051, it follows the lives of Orla Cadden and her roomate Floss in 2015, and Marlo thirty years later.

Orla works as a blogger for a celebrity website and Floss has desires to become a famous singer. Floss is very much influenced by what she sees on Instagram and uses her friendship with Orla to try to achieve her ambitions. Fast forward to 2051 and to Constellation, a closed Californian village where the government has appointed people to live their lives online 24/7. How well storylines are received by followers, dictates what paths the inhabitants lives will take. Marlow has over 12 million followers but she doesn’t like the attention. For one of the storylines, she discovers something that will change the course of her life and questions everything she has ever known.

I did find that it took me a while to get into the book. For me, the chapters are quite long (I am a fan of short chapters) but there is a lot of story to get across. The chapters alternate between the present and the future until they collide in an event, that changes the lives of American citizens forever. I was really curious to see where Megan Angelo was taking the story. She shines a lot on how social media can affect our mental health and dictate our lives, if we let it. It left me valuing human interaction even more.

~ Where to find Followers ~

Followers by Megan Angelo

Followers by Megan Angelo will be published by HQ in the UK on 9th January 2020. It can be found in all good bookshops as well at Amazon UK, Amazon US and on Goodreads.

~ About Megan Angelo ~

Megan has written about television, film, women and pop culture, and motherhood for publications including The New York Times (where she helped launch city comedy coverage), Glamour (where she was a contributing editor and wrote a column on women and television), Elle, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, and Slate. She is a native of Quakertown, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Villanova University. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her family. FOLLOWERS is her first novel.

*Author biography and photograph from Goodreads

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Be sure to drop by the other stops on the Followers blog tour!

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A Week in Books · Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Charlie Mackesy · Emma Mitchell · Liz Fenwick · Megan Angelo

Sarah's Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 15 December 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 ~

When Stars Will Shine: Helping our Heroes One Page at a Time

On Tuesday, it was a real pleasure to share my review for When Stars Will Shine collated by Emma Mitchell. This is a wonderful collection of short stories with all proceeds from sales going to the Help the Heroes charity. With stories that will touch your heart, some Christmas crime, and love stories, there is something for everyone.

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I looked back on my review of The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 1 signed book to my bookshelf this week.

Whilst out and about in London this Friday, I popped into Gallery Different on Percy Street to have a look around the Charley Mackesy Exhibition. They were showing artworks and drawings from his beautiful book: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse . I was very lucky to meet Charley and he signed a copy of my book and included a couple of doodles!

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

A book of hope for uncertain times.

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

~ On my bedside table ~

Followers by Megan Angelo

I’m reading Followers by Megan Angelo. It’s set between 2015 and 2051 and, as the title suggests, it revolves around social media and followings. It is a good read and interesting to see what the 2051 digital world might have in store for us!


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

Until next week, happy reading!