A Week in Books · Book Hauls · Book Post · Books · Cover Reveal · Daisy James · fiction · Literary Lowdown · Lucy Foley · Sheila O'Flanagan

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 3-9 February 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 ~

The Cornish Confetti Agency by Daisy  James

On Thursday, I supported Daisy James with revealing the cover for her upcoming novel The Cornish Confetti Agency.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I’ve added 1 book to my shelf this week.

I’m taking part in a blog tour next month for Her Husband’s Mistake , Sheila O’Flanagan’s latest novel, which is out in paperback on 5th March 2020. Whilst I’ll only be sharing some content as part of my stop, the lovely people at Headline Review still sent me a copy of the book to read and review here at a later date. I can’t wait to read it!!

Her Husband’s Mistake by Sheila O’Flanagan

Roxy’s marriage has always been rock solid.

Her Husband's Mistake by Sheila O'Flanagan

After twenty years, and with two carefree kids, she and Dave are still the perfect couple.

Until the day she comes home unexpectedly, and finds Dave in bed with their attractive, single neighbour.

Suddenly Roxy isn’t sure about anything – her past, the business she’s taken over from her dad, or what her family’s future might be. She’s spent so long caring about everyone else that she’s forgotten what she actually wants. But something has changed. And Roxy has a decision to make.

Whether it’s with Dave, or without him, it’s time for Roxy to start living for herself…

~ On my bedside table ~

I’m currently reading and enjoying The Guest List by Lucy Foley. Watch out for my review on 29th February.

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 . . .


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!

Blog Tours · Books · Extracts · fiction · Gill Thompson

Sarah’s Vignettes: Extract from The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson (@wordkindling) ~ @headlinepg ~ @annecater #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour

Welcome to Sarah’s Vignettes stop on the blog tour for The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson.

I am so pleased to be taking part in this tour and thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

I was sad that I couldn’t fit in a review for this book. It is exactly my kind of historical read as I gravitate towards stories set in World War 2. However, after reading the extract below, I will be reading and reviewing the book at some point. It’s powerful.

Before I share the extract with you, here is what The Child on Platform One is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Inspired by the real-life escape of thousands of Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Europe on the Kindertransport trains to London, the new novel from the author of The Oceans Between Us Gill Thompson. For readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz Heather Morris, The Choice Edith Eger and Lilac Girls Martha Hall Kelly.

Prague 1939. Young mother Eva has a secret from her past. When the Nazis invade, Eva knows the only way to keep her daughter Miriam safe is to send her away – even if it means never seeing her again. But when Eva is taken to a concentration camp, her secret is at risk of being exposed.

In London, Pamela volunteers to help find places for the Jewish children arrived from Europe. Befriending one unclaimed little girl, Pamela brings her home. It is only when her young son enlists in the RAF that Pamela realises how easily her own world could come crashing down.

~ Extract from The Child on Platform One ~

11

The guard’s whistle blew. Pamela put her head out of the window to check that all the children were safely on board. Further down the platform, a wailing child was being forced into a carriage by a clearly agitated mother. How awful. As the train pulled out, Pamela hurried down the corridor to check on the little girl. As she did so, she caught the mother’s eye. There was no time to call out that everything would be all right, even if she could find the words, but in that split second of contact she concentrated all her efforts on silently assuring the woman that she’d protect her child. She saw the woman turn to her companion and they put their arms round each other. She couldn’t bear to think how hard it must be for them to hand over their children. She twisted her wedding ring round her finger as she thought of Will, and silently thanked God he was safe.
She found the little girl, her face buried in her doll, sitting by the window, her small legs dangling. Opposite her was a boy of a similar age, imperturbably munching on a hunk of black bread. For a second Pamela thought of Margery Weston, who no doubt had purchased new provisions and was tucking into them heartily. How strange that some people could carry on eating even in the most extreme of circumstances. She herself certainly couldn’t manage a morsel.

She sat down carefully next to the child. Her long hair, probably carefully brushed by her mother, was frizzy where it had rubbed against the seat. Pamela longed to smooth it but didn’t want to scare her. The girl had brown frightened eyes in a white face and looked about five or six. ‘Seef por ardku?’ Pamela asked. Are you all right? Mrs Brevda had taught her well. She was quite fluent now.
The little girl nodded woefully.
‘Yak-say-manyouyesh?’ What’s your name?
‘Miriam,’ the girl whispered.
Pamela gently stroked the doll’s hair. ‘Jakka hezka panenka.’ What a pretty doll! Thank goodness she’d had all that practice with Agata. She reached out to shake the doll’s hand, just as she had with Agata’s doll in the hospital. The child gave a half-smile. Pamela gestured to her to hand the doll over, and soon they were playing hide-and-seek with it. Even the little boy joined in. By the time the train pulled to a halt an hour later, the children had started to laugh a little.
Pamela walked up the train to find out why they had stopped. They were at a station. Terezin, the sign said. She located Margery, who was gesticulating at an official with a hand that still clutched an apple. Tiny bits of the fruit’s flesh flew through the air. ‘Ah, Pamela. Perhaps you can help.’
‘I’ll try.’ Pamela stepped forward and exchanged a few sentences with the man. ‘Apparently some important papers are missing. We can’t cross into Germany without them.’
Margery blew out her cheeks. ‘Oh no. How frustrating. I was assured everything was in order.’
Pamela bit her lip. They had such a long way to go, and already there was a holdup when they’d barely started. 

Margery had no choice but to dispatch Patrick Smith back to Prague to collect the necessary papers. Pamela looked out of the window to see the black ulster coat scuttling self-importantly up the platform, ready to catch the return train. Perhaps Smith was more competent than he’d appeared.
It had been nice to be back in Prague, however briefly. Despite the pain of her accident, and the horror of Ada’s death, Pamela still had some good memories of Czechoslovakia: the warmth and kindness of the people . . . the beauty of the landscape . . . even the food had been interesting, though very different to Hampstead fare. Most of all, it was tremendous to feel she was doing something. She had her part to play: registering the children, issuing brown labels, trying to console distraught mothers. It had been a very long time since she’d felt she was genuinely helping. I feel like a Quaker again, she realised. At long last the guilt of compromise, hypocrisy even, was beginning to recede. Hugh was doing his bit at the Foreign Office; she was rescuing refugees. Finally they were working as a team.
Their train waited at Terezin for four hours, while others moved through the station past it. Four hours of checking on the children, joining in with ‘Hoppe, hoppe Reiter’, which they seemed to want to sing countless times, making sure they didn’t eat all their food, placing blankets over those who had fallen asleep, comforting those who were distressed. And all the time listening to Margery’s infuriated rants and feeling her own blood pressure rise alarmingly. By the time Patrick Smith finally returned with the vital papers, and the train jerked into action, Pamela was exhausted and frustrated. They had so much time to make up. 

The motion of the train lulled more children to sleep, and eventually Pamela felt she could relax. For the first few hours the windows were filled with mountains and forests, just as when they’d travelled through Germany for their ski trip. She’d forgotten how beautiful the country was. How could such splendour and tranquillity have spawned such a warlike people? Adolf Hitler was a powerful man, there was no doubt about that. Thank God Chamberlain was holding him off for now, but Pamela had seen the worry and fear etched on the faces of the people at the Wilson station. Occupation was a terrible thing. She hoped it would never come to that in Britain.
When they stopped at Cologne, German officers boarded the train. Pamela heard the thud of their boots as they made their way up the corridors. She looked out of the window. Nazi flags hung from each lamp post; there were black swastikas in white circles and posters of Hitler everywhere. The air crackled with tension.
Suddenly their compartment door burst open and a German officer appeared, lurching slightly in the entrance. Pamela’s mouth turned paper-dry, and she held her breath. The officer strode up to Miriam and motioned to her doll. ‘What have we here?’
Miriam held out the doll with a shaking hand. The man grabbed it and dangled it out of the window, his fingers forcing the little cloth limbs to jerk up and down. ‘Help me,’ he cried in a high-pitched voice, then laughed at his own pantomime. Miriam was frozen with terror.
The little boy shifted in his seat. Pamela put her palm on his shoulder to restrain him, then strode over to the window.
 
‘Stop it,’ she said, as vehemently as she dared. ‘You’re upsetting the children.’
She had no idea if the officer understood her words, but he’d caught her tone. He shrugged, drew the doll back in and tossed it onto Miriam’s lap. Pamela hoped he’d leave them alone after that, but instead he hauled the children’s cases down from the luggage rack. As he dropped them on the floor, one of them burst open, revealing a neat stack of clothes.
The German pulled the garments out and flung them behind him, creating an untidy pile of skirts and dresses, several made from the same material. Something caught in Pamela’s throat. Miriam’s mother must have sewn them for her. She was obviously expecting them to be apart for some time. The officer grabbed another lot of belongings from the suitcase and dropped them on the floor. There was a smashing sound.
‘I can assure you everything here is in order,’ Pamela said.
The German ignored her.
Anger tightened in a band across her chest. ‘Enough!’ she shouted. She marched up to the German, snapped the suitcase shut, and hauled it across the floor away from him. ‘What kind of man are you that you victimise defenceless children? You should be ashamed of yourself,’ she hissed, putting as much venom in her voice as she could. Even if he didn’t speak English, there was no doubt about her anger. Let him attack her if he wanted – the man in the homburg would surely come to her aid soon – but these children were terrified. They had barely anything of their own. How dare he ransack their cases? 

The German scowled. Pamela stood her ground. Where on earth was the homburg man? ‘Keep away from these children. Their things are not yours to take.’ She made a shooing gesture with her hand. ‘Get out this minute!’
The German’s eyes bulged. He aimed a kick at the suitcase, then left the compartment.
Pamela’s legs were suddenly hollow. When she knelt down quickly in front of Miriam, it was as much to stop herself falling over as to reassure the child.
‘Come on, dear,’ she said in Czech. It was almost impossible to speak, her mouth was so dry. ‘Let’s repack your suitcase.’ She started to refold the girl’s dresses and place them carefully back in the case. A photo in a broken frame had slid under the seat. She picked it up to see a smiling Jewish couple, the little girl seated between them. ‘Don’t worry,’ she told her. ‘We’ll get this mended for you when we get to England.’ The child gulped and hugged her doll tightly.
Pamela heaved the cases back into the overhead rack.
‘Will you be all right now?’
Miriam and the boy both nodded.
She strode into the next-door compartment to find the man Lord Halifax had supposedly sent to keep an eye on her still sitting behind his newspaper, his homburg intact. The pages shook slightly in his hands.
She stood in front of him, hands on hips, until he lowered his paper. His face was pale and his forehead gleamed with sweat.
‘I thought you were here to help,’ she said.
The man swallowed. ‘Er, sorry. Got engrossed.’ He wiped his palms down his trousers. ‘Are you all right?’ 

~ Where to find The Child on Platform One ~

The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson

The Child on Platform One was published in the UK by Headline Review on 1 December 2019. It can be found in all good bookshops, on Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ About Gill Thompson ~

Gill Thompson, author, The Child on Platform One

Gill Thompson is an English lecturer who completed an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University. Her debut novel, The Oceans Between Us, was a No. 1 digital bestseller and has been highly acclaimed. She lives with her family in West Sussex and teaches English to college students.

W: wordkindling.co.uk ~ T: @wordkindling

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Be sure to drop by the other blogs on the tour!

Blog tour poster: The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson
Advanced Review Copy · Books · Review Copy · Reviews · Victoria Hislop

Blog Tour, Review: Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop (@VicHislop) ~ @headlinepg ~ @annecater

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop.

Thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Headline Review for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Scroll on for a taster of the book and to read my review.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade. Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. She watches friends die in the ensuing famine and is moved to commit acts of resistance.

In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek.

Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live. As she looks back on her life, Themis realises how tightly the personal and political can become entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.

~ My thoughts ~

Gosh, what have I just read in 481 pages! The life story of Themis, our protagonist from 1930 to 2016, is powerful and captivating.

We first meet Themis at the end of her birthday celebrations in 2016. Two of her grandchildren, Popi and Nikos have stayed behind to help their nonagenarian grandmother to tidy up. They chat about the state of the society and Themis becomes contemplative. She takes her two grandchildren to the nearby cafe and proceeds to tell them about her past. What follows is a walk through the history of Athens and Greece in World War II, the Civil War and the post war period.

I’ll admit it took me a while to get into the story but once I was in it, there was no turning back – similar to Themis at several points in the book. I was living Themis’s life, experiencing her emotions and wondering whether I would have made the same decisions. I came to the conclusion that I probably would have. Themis is a brave and resilient woman whose life mirrors Greece’s turbulent past.

The depth of detail in this book is astonishing. It has been researched within in an inch of its life and the writing is just brilliant.

I remember reading The Island , when it came out 10 years ago and Cartes Postales from Greece in 2016 and being taken on a journey of different periods in Greece’s history. Those Who Are Loved is no different. It is historical fiction at its best and it is simply epic.

~ Where to find Those Who Are Loved ~

Those Who Are Loved Headline Review on 30 May 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK Amazon US and on Goodreads.

~ About Victoria Hislop ~

Inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony, Victoria Hislop wrote The Island in 2005. It became an international bestseller and a 26-part Greek TV series. She was named Newcomer of the Year at the British Book Awards and is now an ambassador for Lepra. The Island has sold over 1.2million copies in the UK and more than 5 million worldwide.

Her affection for the Mediterranean then took her to Spain, which inspired her second bestseller The Return, and she returned to Greece to tell the turbulent tale of Thessaloniki in The Thread, shortlisted for a British Book Award and confirming her reputation as an inspirational storyteller. It was followed by her much-admired Greece-set short story collection, The Last Dance and Other Stories. The Sunrise, a Sunday Times Number One bestseller about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, was published to widespread acclaim in 2014. Victoria’s most recent book, Cartes Postales from Greece was a Sunday Times Number One bestseller and one of the Top Ten biggest selling paperbacks of 2017. Her novels have sold 10 million copies worldwide.

~ Where to find Victoria Hislop ~

You can find out more about Victoria on her website https://victoriahislop.com/ and connect with her on Twitter @VicHislop and Facebook @OfficialVictoriaHislop

~ Follow the tour ~

Be sure to drop by the other blogs on the tour!

Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Nikola Scott · Review Copy · Reviews

Blog Tour: Review of Summer of Secrets by Nikola Scott (@nikola_scott) @headlinepg @annecater

I am pleased to share with you my review of Summer of Secrets by Nikola Scott.

Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour and for arranging for a proof copy of the book from Headline Review in return for an honest review.

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is what Summer of Secrets is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

August 1939

At peaceful Summerhill, orphaned Maddy hides from the world and the rumours of war. Then her adored sister Georgina returns from a long trip with a new friend, the handsome Victor. Maddy fears that Victor is not all he seems, but she has no idea just what kind of danger has come into their lives…

Today

Chloe is newly pregnant. This should be a joyful time, but she is fearful for the future, despite her husband’s devotion. When chance takes her to Summerhill, she’s drawn into the mystery of what happened there decades before. And the past reaches out to touch her in ways that could change everything…

~ My thoughts ~

Summer of Secrets is a story primarily about love. The love you have for your siblings; the love you have for your partner; the love you have for your parents; and what happens when this becomes destructive.

Set in a dual timeline, Summer of Secrets tells the story of sisters Maddie and Georgiana in the Summer of 1939. It is the eve of the outbreak of WW2 and Maddie is sheltered at their childhood home of Summerhill, on the idyllic Cornish coast. When Georgiana returns home from a trip to Europe, Maddie is thrilled as she thinks they can see the war through together. However, Georgiana returns accompanied by friends she has met along the way, and one friend in particular, Victor, is not all he seems. The historical story of Summer of Secrets is interesting as the two sisters reminisce and come to terms with their lives as they are. There are a few secrets along the way and one I definitely didn’t see coming. Maddie’ story is emotive and highly descriptive. However, it is the present day story which captured my attention more.

On the outside, Chloe has it all: a beautiful home, married to devoted doctor, Aidan, and has just discovered she is pregnant with their first child. This should be a happy time in her life. However, as we delve deeper into Chloe’s story, we learn that Aidan’s devotion is controlling and harmful. Nikola Scott writes this with such intensity that, at times, it feels suffocating to read. In fact, I found a couple of scenes between the couple quite tough to get through and I found myself wanting to jump into the pages and save Chloe. Chloe’s story is one that needs to be told and sadly it is one which isn’t spoken about enough. Hopefully, it will help at least one person.

For me, the story had a slow start but I think this was necessary to set the scene of both stories for when Maddie and Chloe meet. Then the pace really quickened and I became thoroughly immersed in the story. Chloe and Maddie’s relationship is special and based on an unspoken, mutual understanding and I loved it.

Summer of Secrets is a powerful, emotionally-charged novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

~ Where to find Summer of Secrets ~

Summer of Secrets was published by Headline Review on 6 September 2018 and is available via the following links:

Goodreads            Amazon UK          Amazon US

~ About Nikola Scott ~

Nikola Scott was born and raised in Germany and studied at university there. Having Nikola Scott Author picbeen obsessed with books from a young age, Nikola moved to New York City after her Master’s degree to begin her first job in book publishing, a career in which she could fully indulge her love of fiction!

She spent ten years working in publishing in New York and then in London, editing other people’s books, before she decided to take the leap into becoming a full-time writer herself.

She now lives in Frankfurt with her husband and two sons.

MY MOTHER’S SHADOW was published in 2017 to wonderful reviews. Her new novel SUMMER OF SECRETS is coming in September 2018.

Please visit http://www.nikolascott.com/ for more information, or find Nikola on Instagram @nikolascottauthor, Twitter @nikola_scott and Facebook /NikolaScottAuthor.

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Summer of Secrets Blog Tour Poster