A Week in Books · A.A. Dhand · Adam Kay · Blog Tours · Candice Carty-Williams · Christy Lefteri · Clare Mackintosh · Fanny Blake · Literary Lowdown · Lucy Coleman · Milly Johnson · Stacey Halls

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 17-23 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, on social media, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves, and other bookish delights.

~ On the blog ~

The Foundling by Stacey Halls

On Monday, I shared my review of The Foundling by Stacey Halls. This book really touched me.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

On Wednesday, I shared my review of The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri. It is a powerful and significant story, compassionately and beautifully told. Whether you read it or listen to it, I believe that it is a story that we should all experience. 

~ On social media ~

On Friday, The Reading Agency published 6 books in their Quick Reads collection. Quick Reads are short and engaging books for adult readers and there is a story for everyone.

In the 2020 collection:

This is Going to Hurt: a specially adapted version by Adam Kay

Darkness Rising by A.A. Dhand

The Donor by Clare Mackintosh

The Little Dreams of Lara Cliffe by Milly Johnson

Notting Hill Carnival: A West Side Story by Candice Carty-Wiliams

A Fresh Start by various authors, edited by Fanny Blake

~ On my bookshelf ~

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

I’m taking part in a blog tour next month for Summer in Provence, Lucy Coleman’s upcoming novel, which is out in digital on 4th April 2020. Lucy Coleman aka Linn B.Halton is one of my favourite authors and I always enjoy reading her books. I just love the cover for this one!!

Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman

Is a change as good as a rest?

Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman

When married couple Fern and Aiden have a windfall, their reactions could not be more different. While Fern is content to pay off their mortgage and build a nest egg before starting a family, her husband is set on traveling the world.

Fern’s not much of a back-packer so, before she knows it, the idea of a ‘marriage gap year’ takes shape. And, as Aiden heads off to the wilds of Australia, Fern chooses the more restful Provence for her year out.

Set amidst the glorious French scenery, Château de Vernon offers a retreat from the hustle and bustle of normal life, and Fern agrees to help out in return for painting lessons from the owner – renowned, but rather troubled, painter Nico.

As their year unfolds in very different ways, will the time apart transform their marriage, or will it drive Fern and Aiden even further apart…

Let Lucy Coleman whisk you off on a heart-warming, sun-drenched and magical French adventure.

~ On my bedside table ~

A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman

I’ve almost finished reading A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman and I’ll be sharing my review here on 5th March.

A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman

Paris and the Palace of Versailles have always meant a lot to TV producer Lexie. Her grandma Viv spent a year there, but her adventures and memories were never discussed, and Lexie has long wondered why they were a family secret. 

When work presents the perfect excuse to spend Springtime in Versailles, Lexie delves into Viv’s old diaries and scrapbooks, and with the help of handsome interpreter Ronan, she is soon learning more about the characters that tend to the magnificent gardens, now and in the past.

In amongst the beauty and splendour of the French countryside, a story of lost love, rivalry and tragedy unfolds.  Can Lexie and Ronan right the wrongs of the past, and will France play its tricks on them both before Lexie has to go home? Will this truly be a Springtime to Remember…

Let Lucy Coleman sweep you away with this perfect feel-good love story.


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 · Stacey Halls

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.

~ Follow the tour ~

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 · Amelia Henley · Andi Osho · Anna bell · Blog Tours · Book events · Book Hauls · Books · Brian McGilloway · fiction · Jeffrey Archer · Jessica Ryn · Jo Piazza · Josie Lloyd · Libby Page · Literary Lowdown · Louise Hare · Nadine Matheson · Polly Crosby · Review Copy · Sairish Hussain · Stacey Halls · Tom Ellen

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 27 January – 2 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, the upcoming novels I’ve been hearing about and other bookish delights.

~ On the blog ~

The 24-Hour Café by LIbby Page

On Friday, I shared my review of The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page. This book truly touched my heart.

~ On my calendar ~

HQ New Voices Fiction Showcase

On Wednesday evening, I went to the HQ New Voices Fiction Showcase. We heard from 15 authors about their upcoming novels and even got to take home the books we want to read and review. You can find out all about the evening and the books here.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I’ve added 7 books to my shelf this week.

I got a copy of Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer in my local WHSmith for £2! My mum said I would enjoy it so I will give it a go soon.

Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer

Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer

They had only one thing in common . . .

William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski, one the son of a Boston millionaire, the other a penniless Polish immigrant – two men born on the same day on opposite sides of the world, their paths destined to cross in the ruthless struggle to build a fortune.

Kane and Abel is the marvellous story, spanning sixty years, of two powerful men linked by an all-consuming hatred, brought together by fate to save . . . and finally destroy . . . each other.


Thank you to Emily Glenister and The Dome Press for sending me a copy of The Last Crossing by Brian McGilloway ahead of the blog tour in April.

The Last Crossing by Brian McGilloway

Tony, Hugh and Karen thought they’d seen the last of each other thirty years ago. Half a lifetime has passed and memories have been buried. But when they are asked to reunite – to lay ghosts to rest for the good of the future – they all have their own reasons to agree. As they take the ferry from Northern Ireland to Scotland the past is brought in to terrible focus – some things are impossible to leave behind.

In The Last Crossing memory is unreliable, truth shifts and slips and the lingering legacy of the Troubles threatens the present once again.


At the Showcase on Wednesday, the lovely team at HQ let us take home the books we want to read and review. Whilst all of the books from the evening are in my write-up post, I’ve listed below the ones I picked up.

The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain

The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain

Your roots can always lead you home…

Amjad cradles his baby daughter in the middle of the night. He has no time to mourn his wife’s death. Saahil and Zahra, his two small children, are relying on him. Amjad vows to love and protect them always.

Years later, Saahil and his best friend, Ehsan, have finished university and are celebrating with friends. But when the night turns dangerous, its devastating effects will ripple through the years to come.

Zahra’s world is alight with politics and activism. But she is now her father’s only source of comfort, and worries she’ll never have time for her own aspirations. Life has taken her small family in different directions – will they ever find their way back to each other?

The Family Tree is the moving story of a British Muslim family full of love, laughter and resilience as well as all the faults, mistakes and stubborn loyalties which make us human.


This Lovely City by Louise Hare

This Lovely City by Louise Hare

The drinks are flowing. The music’s playing. But the party can’t last.

London, 1950. With the Blitz over and London still rebuilding after the war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Arriving from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush, he’s taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door.

Touring Soho’s music halls by night, pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home — and it’s alive with possibility. Until one morning, while crossing a misty common, he makes a terrible discovery.


As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And before long, London’s newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart. Immersive, poignant, and utterly compelling, Louise Hare’s debut examines the complexities of love and belonging, and teaches us that even in the face of anger and fear, there is always hope.


The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside by Jessica Ryn

The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside by Jessica Ryn

She’s always looking on the bright side…

Dawn Elisabeth Brightside has been running from her past for twenty-two years and two months, precisely.

So when she is offered a bed in St Jude’s Hostel for the Homeless, it means so much more than just a roof over her head.

But with St Jude’s threatened with closure, Dawn worries that everything is about to crumble around her all over again.

Perhaps, with a little help from her new friends, she can find a way to save this light in the darkness?

And maybe, just maybe, Dawn will finally have a place to call home…. 


The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby

The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby - cover to be revealed

Romilly lives in a ramshackle house with her eccentric artist father and her cat, Monty. She knows little about her past – but she knows that she is loved.

When her father finds fame with a series of children’s books starring her as the main character, everything changes: exotic foods appear on the table, her father appears on TV, and strangers appear at their door, convinced the books contain clues leading to a precious prize.

But as time passes, Romilly’s father becomes increasingly suspicious of the outside world until, before her eyes, he begins to disappear altogether. With no-one else to help, Romilly turns to the secrets her father has hidden in his illustrated books – realising that his treasure hunt doesn’t lead to gold, but to something far more precious…

The truth.

The Illustrated Child is the unforgettable, beguiling debut from Polly Crosby.


All About Us by Tom Ellen

All About Us by Tom Ellen

One moment in time can change your life forever…

Ben’s always loved the holidays but with his marriage to Daphne on the rocks, this year they’re missing their usual magic. So when his old flame Alice gets back in touch, Ben can’t help wonder: did he make the right choice all those years ago?

Yet everything changes on Christmas Eve when a twinkly-eyed stranger sells Ben a mysterious watch, the hands frozen at one minute to midnight. Opening his eyes the next morning, Ben is astonished to find that he has been catapulted back to 5th December 2005: the day he first kissed Daphne, leaving Alice behind.

Now Ben must make the biggest decision of his life, all over again. But this time around, will he finally find the courage to follow his heart?

All About Us is a deeply moving novel about love, loss and heartbreak — and how, with the help of a little magic, it’s never too late to find the one you’ve been searching for.

~ On my bookshelf ~

The Foundling by Stacey Halls

I’m currently reading The Foundling by Stacey Halls. Watch out for my review this month.


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!

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!