Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Emma Mitchell · Review Copy · Reviews · Short Stories

A Sarah's Vignettes Book Review: When Stars Will Shine, incl. @ValPortelli @grahamsmith1972, compiled by Emma Mitchell (@emmamitchellfpr) ~ @BakerPromo #WhenStarsWillShine #BlogTour

Welcome to my stop on the When Stars Will Shine blog tour. Thank you to Emma Mitchell for inviting me to take part in the tour and for sending me a digital copy of the book. This is a great collection of short stories and I am thrilled to be able to share it with you.

Before I share my review of a couple of the stories, here is what to expect from When Stars Will Shine and a some background from Emma on how the anthology came to be.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist.

With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Louise Jensen, Graham Smith, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Lucy Cameron, Val Portelli, and Alex Kane, you are in for one heck of a ride!

When Stars Will Shine is the perfect Christmas gift for the bookworms in your life!

A Note from Emma Mitchell:

As the blurb tells us, When Stars Will Shine is a multi-genre collection of Christmas-themed short stories compiled to raise money for our armed forces and every penny made from the sales of both the digital and paperback copies will be donated to the charity.

Working closely with Kate Noble at Noble Owl Proofreading and Amanda Ni Odhrain from Let’s Get Booked, I’ve been able to pick the best of the submissions to bring you a thrilling book which is perfect for dipping into at lunchtime or snuggling up with on a cold winter’s night. I have been completely blown away by the support we’ve received from the writing and blogging community, especially the authors who submitted stories and Shell Baker from Baker’s Not So Secret Blog, who has organised the cover reveal and blog tour.

There isn’t a person in the country who hasn’t benefited from the sacrifices our troops, past and present, have made for us and they all deserve our thanks.

It has been an honour working on these stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.

Full contents:

Fredrick Snellgrove, Private 23208 by Rob Ashman

Four Seasons by Robert Scragg

The Close Encounter by Gordon Bickerstaff

Believe by Mark Brownless

What Can Possibly Go Wrong? by Lucy Cameron

Mountain Dew by Paul T. Campbell

The Art of War and Peace by John Carson

A Gift for Christmas by Kris Egleton

Free Time by Stewart Giles

Died of Wounds by Malcolm Hollingdrake

The Christmas Killer by Louise Jensen

The Village Hotel by Alex Kane

A Present of Presence by HR Kemp

The Invitation by Billy McLaughlin

Brothers Forever by Paul Moore

Girl in a Red Shirt by Owen Mullen

Pivotal Moments by Anna Franklin Osborne

Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli

Time for a Barbeque by Carmen Radtke

Christmas Present by Lexi Rees

Inside Out by KA Richardson

Penance by Jane Risdon

New Year’s Resolution by Robert Scragg

Family Time by Graham Smith

~ My thoughts ~

What a wonderful collection of stories this is and it’s for a great cause too. With stories that will touch your heart, some Christmas crime, and love stories, there is something for everyone.

I imagine that writing short stories is much harder than writing a novel. For starters, a writer must pull together a beginning, a middle and end with a decent plot in a restricted amount of words. All of the authors did this very well.

I would love to review each story individually but we may be here for a long time! So, I’ve whittled it down to two: Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli; Family Time by Graham Smith. I chose these stories because they stayed with me long after I finished reading them.

Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli

Uncle Christmas is a story of human kindness. It follows Jack, an ex-military officer and good, hardworking person, who has fallen on hard times and finds himself living on the streets at Christmas because he cannot afford to pay his rent. As the story progresses, Jack comes across some good people and each one helps him in ways that goes above and beyond.

This is a poignant story and one that needs to be told. I have watched news reports and read articles about how ex-service men and women struggle with life after the services and one thing affects another. If you don’t have an address, you can’t get help or a job and it snowballs. We should be looking after those who have looked after us.

Val Portelli is a new author to me and I really like her writing style. I was immersed in Uncle Christmas from the beginning. It was only a 13-minute read but in that time, she created a beautiful story and felt I had been on a journey.

Family Time by Graham Smith

Family Time by Graham Smith is the final story in the collection. It is told from the point of view of an unnamed police officer. We meet him when he is looking for a man known to the police but it’s not quite what we expect. I really enjoyed this story as it took a turn I wasn’t expecting. This character put the happiness of others over his own.

Graham Smith is another new author to me and I like his storytelling. Family Time is a 15-minute read and one I would highly recommend.

~ Where to find When Stars Will Shine ~

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

When Stars Will Shine was published on 9th December and can be found in digital and paperback formats at Amazon UK, Amazon US and on Goodreads.

~ About Val Portelli & Graham Smith ~

Val Portelli

The author’s pen name Voinks began many years ago. It started as a joke when a friend bought a holiday home abroad, then gradually spread through the family, so it was an obvious choice when her first book was published.

Despite receiving her first rejection letter aged nine from some lovely people at a well-known Women’s magazine, she continued writing intermittently until a freak accident left her housebound and going stir crazy.

To save her sanity she completed and had published her first full length novel. This was followed by a second traditionally published book before deciding self-publishing was the way to go. In between writing her longest novel to date at over 100,000 words, she publishes weekly stories for her Facebook author page and web site.

She writes in various genres, although her short stories normally include her trademark twist of ‘Quirky.’ From having too many hours in the day, she is now actively seeking out a planet with forty-eight-hour days, to have time to fit in all the stories waiting to be told.

She is always delighted to receive reviews, as they help pay for food for the Unicorns she breeds in her spare time.

T ~ @ValPortelli

Graham Smith

Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains, and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

He is an internationally best-selling Kindle author and has six books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team, and four novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder. His ‘Lakes’ series which has three novels featuring DC Beth Young has received much critical acclaim.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009 Graham is the founder of Crime and Publishment, a weekend of crime-writing classes which includes the chance for attendees to pitch their novels to agents and publishers. Since the first weekend in 2013, ten attendees have gone on to sign publishing contracts.

T ~ @GrahamSmith1972

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Blog Tours · Books · Christmas · Giveaway · Lucy Coleman · Reviews

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman (@LucyColemanauth) ~ @Aria_Fiction ~ @rararesources #BlogTour #Giveaway

Welcome to Sarah’s Vignettes stop on the blog tour for Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman.

Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to Aria Fiction for a digital copy of the book.

I am thrilled to be involved with this tour. I have my review to share with you and there is also a chance for you to win a paperback book by Lucy Coleman and a pamper gift set. But first, here is a taster of what Magic Under the Mistletoe is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Christmas and romance are in the air…

It’s December 23rd and while everyone else is rushing home for the holidays, workaholic Leesa Oliver is dreading switching on her out-of-office for the festive season. And it seems her equally driven boss, Cary Anderson, isn’t relishing spending Christmas at his family’s country estate either.

So together, they draft an unexpected Christmas contract: They’ll spend half of the holidays with each other’s families, pretending to be a couple. Leesa knows the insufferably good-looking Cary will make her Christmas more bearable, but what happens after the last of the mince pies have been eaten…?

Leesa signed off on a sensible business agreement, but somewhere, amongst the fairy lights and carols something seems to have changed… It seems there might just be some magic under the mistletoe this Christmas!

~ My thoughts ~

When the invite to take part in this tour popped into my inbox, I didn’t even need to read the blurb to know I wanted to take part. Knowing it was a book written by one of my favourite authors was enough for me. I have previously read and loved The Secrets of Villa Rosso and A Greek Affair by Linn B. Halton so I knew that a book written under her pen name Lucy Coleman would be right for me. And it was!

Magic Under the Mistletoe is an enjoyable, romantic story to curl up with and get lost in for an afternoon. When we first meet Leesa, she is on a flight back home from Australia after completing a work project for Cary Anderson. Heavy snow fall means Leesa gets stranded and Cary comes to her rescue. Neither of them are looking forward to Christmas because of reasons that become clear as the story progresses. They both think that a business style agreement will get them through.

This is far from a fairy tale love story and it goes a lot deeper than I was expecting. It looks at second chances, fate, heartbreak and it pulled on my heart strings on several occasions. At one point, I had to hold back the tears as I was reading it on a train!

Whether she is writing as Lucy Coleman or Linn B.Halton, Lucy Coleman’s writing touches me in a way no other author’s does. I have such an emotional connection with her female protagonists and her writing. There are even phrases here and there that just get me!

As I would expect from this author, the writing flows effortlessly and the description is immersive. I was captivated from the first page until the beautiful final line. I am sure books that are easy for us readers to engage with are not easy to write. The more stories I read and review, the more I appreciate how much time, energy and life goes into those pages to give readers this kind of experience.

Magic Under the Mistletoe is a story with a big heart and I loved every bit of it. I cannot wait for another story!

~ Where to find Magic Under the Mistletoe ~

Magic Under the Mistletoe was published in the UK by Aria Fiction on 5 September 2019. It can be found in all good bookshops, on Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ Giveaway ~

To enter to win a signed paperback copy of Snowflakes Over Holly Cover by Lucy Coleman and a Christmas Pamper Pack, click on the button below 🙂

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  Sarah’s Vignettes is not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

~ About Lucy Coleman ~

From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton – who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and is excited to be writing for both Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus) and Harper Impulse (Harper Collins); she’s represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.

Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. She writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

W: https://linnbhalton.co.uk/ ~ T: @LucyColemanAuth ~ T: @LinnBHalton ~ F: @LucyColemanAuthor

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Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Cathy Kelly · Irish Writers · Review Copy · Reviews

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly (@cathykellybooks) ~ @orionbooks ~ @Tr4cyF3nt0n ~ #TheFamilyGift #BlogTour

Welcome to Sarah’s Vignettes stop on the blog tour for The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly.

Thank you to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for inviting me to take part and to Orion for sending me a proof copy of the book in return for my honest review.

Before I share my review with you, here’s what The Family Gift is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

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

But that’s on the outside.

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

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

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

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

~ My thoughts ~

Oh poor, sweet Freya. She’s a mum to 3, a wife, a daughter, a TV chef and she’s not handling life well when we meet her. She’s trying to juggle it all as well as silently dealing with the effects of being mugged 4 months previously. 

Although The Family Gift is Cathy Kelly’s 20th novel, it is the first one by this author I have read. I really like how Cathy Kelly has written a book about real life. In Freya, she has written a woman with whom I think most readers will be able to relate to in one way or another: trying to be someone to everyone, worrying about weight, being the one that holds everything together. In Freya’s mum, she has written a woman who is trying to care for her husband after he has had a stroke as well as for his father and her mother. All of this whilst dealing with the grief that inevitably comes from a loved one who is slipping away from their former self. In one of Freya’s sisters, she has written a woman who is desperately to trying to have a baby with her husband and the effects that IVF can have on a marriage. There are more characters I could talk about but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

It took me a while to get into the book as I felt that Freya was as closed to us as she is with her family. However, slowly and surely, she let us in. I became really fond of her. I actually warmed to all of the characters, particularly Teddy, Freya’s 4-year old daughter. She is wonderful! She is a diva and going on 24 years old. She knows her own mind and provides laugh out loud moments in the story.

And then there is Mildred. Mildred is Freya’s inner voice that happily pops up to let her know when she has done something wrong. I think, from time to time, we all have one of those, except Mildred is with Freya 24/7 as she tries to sort her life out.

I really enjoyed The Family Gift and would recommend it.

~ Where to find The Family Gift ~

The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

The Family Gift was published in the UK by Orion on 17 October 2019. It can be found in all good bookshops, on Amazon UK, Amazon US and on Goodreads.

~ About Cathy Kelly ~

Born in Belfast but raised in Dublin, Cathy initially worked for thirteen years as a newspaper journalist with a national Irish Sunday newspaper, where she worked in news, features, along with spending time as an agony aunt and the paper’s film critic. However, her overwhelming love was always fiction and she published her first international bestseller, Woman To Woman, in 1997. She did not become a full-time writer until she had written another two books (She’s The One and Never Too Late) and finally decided to leave the world of journalism in 2001, moving to HarperCollins Publishers at the same time.

Someone Like You and What She Wants followed in successive years. Her sixth novel, Just Between Us, was her first Sunday Times number one bestseller, while her eighth novel, Always and Forever, topped the UK bestseller lists in October 2005, displacing Dan Brown and J. K. Rowling. In 2007, Past Secrets in was also a number one paperback bestseller.

Lessons in Heartbreak was shortlisted for the Eason Irish Popular Fiction Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards in April 2009. In September 2009, Once in a Lifetime topped the UK bestseller lists for three weeks. In March 2011, Homecoming achieved the same feat. Her latest novel is It Started With Paris, published by Orion in 2014.

In Autumn 2011, Cathy headlined a search for a new writer on ITV’s The Alan Titchmarsh Show.

Cathy’s trademark is warm story-telling and she consistently tops the bestseller lists around the world with books which deal with themes ranging from relationships and marriage to depression and loss, but always with an uplifting message and strong female characters at the heart.

Cathy also has a passionate interest in children’s rights and is an ambassador for UNICEF Ireland. Her role for UNICEF is a Global Parent, which means raising funds and awareness for children orphaned by or living with HIV/AIDs.

She lives with her husband, John, their twin sons, Dylan and Murray, and their three dogs in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.

W: www.cathykelly.com ~ T: @cathykellybooks ~ I: @cathykellybooks ~ F: @cathykellybooks

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The Family Gift Blog Tour Part 1
The Family Gift Blog Tour part 2
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

Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · fiction · Kathleen McGurl · Review Copy · Reviews

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl (@KathMcGurl) ~ @HQDigitalUK @HQstories ~ @rararesources #BlogTour

I am pleased to be sharing my review of The Stationmaster’s Daughter, the latest novel from author Kathleen McGurl.

My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for a space on the tour and to HQ Digital for sending me an eProof copy of the book via Netgalley (in return for my honest review).

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is what The Stationmaster’s Daughter is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

As the last train leaves, will life ever be the same?

Dorset 1935

Stationmaster Ted has never cared much for romance. Occupied with ensuring England’s most beautiful railway runs on time, love has always felt like a comparatively trivial matter. Yet when he meets Annie Galbraith on the 8.42 train to Lynford, he can’t help but instantly fall for her.

But soon the railway is forced to close and a terrible accident occurs within the station grounds, Ted finds his job and any hope of a relationship with Annie hanging in the balance…

Present day

Recovering from heartbreak after a disastrous marriage, Tilly decides to escape from the bustling capital and move to Dorset to stay with her dad, Ken. When Ken convinces Tilly to help with the restoration of the old railway, she discovers a diary hidden in the old ticket office. Tilly is soon swept up in Ted’s story, and the fateful accident that changed his life forever. But an encounter with an enigmatic stranger takes Tilly by surprise, and she can’t help but feel a connection with Ted’s story in the past.

~ My thoughts ~

Back in March, I discovered Kathleen McGurl’s writing for the first time with The Forgotten Secret and I fell in love with it. Kathleen writes stories that I love: contemporary and historical fiction, a mystery, characters I can easily connect with, well researched, beautifully told. Needless to say that I was really excited when I was contacted about taking part in the blog tour for The Stationmaster’s Daughter.

Kathleen McGurl knows how to tell a story and a heartbreaking one at that. The Stationmaster’s Daughter starts in the present day with Tilly Thomson at a pivotal time in her life and and her dad, Ken, coming to rescue her. The story then alternates between Tilly’s recovery and 1936 with Ted Morgan’s story, the stationmaster at Lynford station.

Oh, dear, sweet Ted. I warmed to him immediately. He is proud to be a stationmaster and lives for his work. Then he meets Annie, one of the regular passengers, and his life changes forever. I did feel for him and, on occasions, I wanted to jump into the pages to hug him.

One of the many things I liked about this story, and The Forgotten Secret, is how Kathleen McGurl intertwined the historical story with the present. Tilly’s dad volunteers for the local railway restoration society and asks Tilly to get involved, archiving the documents they find and displaying them in the railway museum at Lynford. In doing so, Tilly comes across Ted’s diary and so his story plays out part in the present day as well as in ‘real time’.

Although there were these parallels between Tilly’s and Ted’s stories, I was quite interested in the parallels between Tilly and Annie, in terms of how women were viewed in society in their respective periods.

The historical part of the story is set 4 years before World War Two, when a woman’s place was either at work whilst living with parents before she got married or in the home after she got married. Fast forward 80 years and to Tilly living with her dad after her marriage has ended and working out her way forward as a single, independent woman. The relationships that both women have with their father’s are therefore different. Annie’s father saw his daughter’s place in society for his gain whereas Tilly’s father is so loving, caring and supportive and just wants her to be happy. How times have changed for the better.

The Stationmaster’s Daughter is an escapist timeslip novel about love, tragedy and overcoming bad times for brighter futures. I’m looking forward to Kathleen McGurl’s next story.

~ Where to find The Stationmaster’s Daughter ~

The Stationmaster's Daughter book cover

The Stationmaster’s Daughter was published as a eBook by HQ Digital on 6th August 2019. You can buy it on Amazon UK and Amazon US. It is also on goodreads.

~ About Kathleen McGurl ~

Kathleen McGurl author photo

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

W: https://kathleenmcgurl.com/ ~ F: @KathleenMcGurl ~ T: @KathMcGurl

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Be sure to drop by the other stops on the The Stationmaster’s Daughter blog tour!

The Stationmaster's Daughter blog tour poster
A Week in Books · Advanced Review Copy · Beth O'Leary · Blog Tours · Book Hauls · Books · Carol Drinkwater · Chrissie Manby · fiction · Kathleen McGurl · Literary Lowdown · Louise Jensen · Mary Beth Keane · Rebecca Serle · Review Copy · Reviews · Sheila O'Flanagan

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 16/08/2019

Welcome to my first ever weekly 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 things. Keep scrolling to get the lowdown.

~ On the blog ~

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

On Tuesday, I shared my review of Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane as part of the Michael Joseph blog tour. This seems to be the book of the moment and yes, it is worth the hype. It is a powerful and moving family saga.

I also did some behind the scenes work on the blog and added a Reviews A-Z by Book Title to the Reviews section. I’m not sure I’ve ever realised how many book titles actually start with ‘The’ or ‘A’ until I started organising the reviews this way!

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I shared the link to my first ever blog review. It was for The Forgotten Summer by Carol Drinkwater, published by Michael Joseph in July 2016, and I had forgotten that I had written this review in the style of a letter to the author. The Forgotten Summer is a page-turner that will have you wanting to book a flight to Provence immediately!


On Friday, I supported author Louise Jensen with a little teaser for her new book The Family, due to be published by HQ, Harper Collins, in October. Next week, I’ll share what we did on Tuesday!

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 4 books to my bookshelf this week.

Photo from the Rooftop Book Club, featuring authors Beth O'Leary, Chrissie Manby, Sheila O'Flanagan and Prima Books Editor, Nina Pottell

On Wednesday, I met up with fellow book bloggers Linda (Linda’s Book Bag), Sharon (Shaz’s Book Blog) and Karen (My Reading Corner) to go to the Rooftop Book Club, hosted by Headline Publishing, Hodder & Stoughton and Quercus with Prima magazine. Authors Sheila O’Flanagan, Beth O’Leary and Chrissie Manby discussed their latest books, writing processes, their lives as authors and other bookish things. The panel was chaired by the fabulous Nina Pottell, Prima books editor. Of course, I couldn’t leave without signed copies of their books!

Her Husband’s Mistake by Sheila O’Flanagan

Her Husband's Mistake by Sheila O'Flanagan

Roxy’s marriage has always been rock solid.

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…


The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

Tiffy Moore and Leon Twomey each have a problem and need a quick fix.

Tiffy’s been dumped by her cheating boyfriend and urgently needs a new flat. But earning minimum wage at a quirky publishing house means that her choices are limited in London.

Leon, a palliative care nurse, is more concerned with other people’s welfare than his own. Along with working night shifts looking after the terminally ill, his sole focus is on raising money to fight his brother’s unfair imprisonment.

Leon has a flat that he only uses 9 to 5. Tiffy works 9 to 5 and needs a place to sleep. The solution to their problems? To share a bed of course…

As Leon and Tiffy’s unusual arrangement becomes a reality, they start to connect through Post-It notes left for each other around the flat.

Can true love blossom even in the unlikeliest of situations?
Can true love blossom even if you never see one another?
Or does true love blossom when you are least expecting it?


Three Days in Florence by Chrissie Manby

When a mini-break becomes make or break…

Three Days in Florence by Chrissie Manby

Kathy Courage has never visited the famous Italian city of Florence before, so she’s thrilled when she and her boyfriend Neil are invited there for a wedding. Unfortunately, with Neil’s constant complaining and his teenage children in tow, it’s not exactly the romantic break Kathy was hoping for.

But when a mix-up with her flights leaves Kathy stranded in the city, she decides to embrace the unexpected and stay on alone.

What follows is a life-changing few days in the Tuscan sun, as Kathy begins to question the choices that have led her here. With the help of the colourful Innocenti family, who offer Kathy a place to stay, she gradually begins to realise that there’s a much bigger world out there, if only she can be brave enough to explore it.

Could Italy hold the answers to her future happiness? Or is Kathy destined to return to her old life?


In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

The lovely organisers of the Rooftop Book Club put together a great goodie bag and included this proof copy of In Five Years by Rebecca Serle. It’s due out in the UK in March 2020 and sounds fab! I can’t wait to read it.

Where do you see yourself in five years? 


Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan has been in possession of her meticulously crafted answer since she understood the question. On the day that she nails the most important job interview of her career and gets engaged to the perfect man, she’s well on her way to fulfilling her life goals.


That night Dannie falls asleep only to wake up in a different apartment with a different ring on her finger, and in the company of a very different man. The TV is on in the background, and she can just make out the date. It’s the same night – December 15th – but 2025, five years in the future.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle


It was just a dream, she tells herself when she wakes, but it felt so real… Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.
That is, until four and a half years later, when Dannie turns down a street and there, standing on the corner, is the man from her dream…

~ On my bedside table ~

The Stationmaster's Daughter by Kathleen McGurl

I’m currently reading The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl for my stop on the blog tour. I’ll be sharing my review here on 26 August 2019.

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

Until next week, happy reading!

Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · fiction · Mary Beth Keane · Review Copy · Reviews

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (@Mary_Beth_Keane) ~ @MichaelJBooks #BlogTour

I am pleased to be sharing my review of The New York Times bestseller and Radio 2 Summer Book Club pick Ask Again, Yes , the latest novel from author Mary Beth Keane.

My thanks to Sriya Varadharajan at Michael Joseph for a space on the tour and for me sending me a proof copy of the book (in return for my honest review).

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is what Ask Again, Yes is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy

Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours.

Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope – cold, elegant, unstable – wants to be left alone.

It’s left to their children – Lena’s youngest, Kate, and Anne’s only child, Peter – to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.

A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later . . .

A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. 

A story of how, if we’re lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love.

~ My thoughts ~

Ask Again, Yes is one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time. Set in Gillam, New York, this multigenerational family drama follows the trials and tribulations of neighbours The Stanhopes and The Gleesons across 40 years.

When The Stanhopes move in, everyone expects that Anne Stanhope and Lena Gleeson will be friends. The neighbourhood is so tight, that it is suffocating. However, Anne is very cold towards Lena and it isn’t until much later on in the book that we understand why.

The story is told mostly from the points of view of Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope. Kate and Peter are born during the story and both families are completely different. Seeing events through young and innocent eyes, they cannot understand why their parents want to stop them from being friends. Then as the years pass, we see through their adult eyes the reasoning behind this.

Mary Beth Keane writes with compassion for her characters but she also puts them through the mill, as she does her readers. I was exhausted by the time I came to the end. Four decades of love, loss, tragedy are carefully woven with the topics of mental health, alcoholism, marriage, parenthood, and much more.

At it’s core, Ask Again, Yes shows how the power of love will conquer all. This is a book and an author to watch.

~ Where to find Ask Again, Yes ~

Ask Again, Yes book cover

Ask Again, Yes was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 7th August 2019. You can buy it in all good bookshops and on Amazon UK. It is also on Goodreads.

~ About Mary Beth Keane ~

Mary Beth Keane, author photo

Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. In 2011, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35,’ and in 2015 she was awarded a John S. Guggenheim fellowship for fiction writing. She currently lives in Pearl River, New York, with her husband and their two sons. She is the author of The Walking People , Fever , and Ask Again, Yes .

W: MaryBethKeane.com ~ F: @mbkwriter ~ T: @Mary_Beth_Keane ~ I: @marybethkeane

~ Follow the tour~

Be sure to drop by the other stops on the Ask Again, Yes blog tour!

Ask Again, Yes blog tour poster