A Week in Books · Advanced Review Copy · Anna McPartlin · Books · Cathy Kelly · Crime · fiction · Fran Cooper · Literary Lowdown · Lucy Coleman

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 27 October 2019

Welcome to this week’s round-up of what’s been going on here at Sarah’s Vignettes, on social media, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves and other bookish delights. Keep scrolling to get the lowdown.

~ On the blog ~

The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

On Wednesday, it was my stop on the blog tour for The Family Gift, Cathy Kelly’s 20th novel. It’s the first book by Cathy Kelly I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. You can read my review here.

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I chose The Crime Writers Association Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour. It’s well worth a read, especially if you’re looking for a taster of crime fiction.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I’ve added 2 books to my digital bookshelf this week. Both of these books are proof copies for blog tours happening in November 2019 and April 2020.

Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman (published 5 September 2019)

Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman

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!


If you’ve read The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin, the sequel is out next year. I loved Rabbit Hayes and I am looking forward to finding out how the Hayes family are in Below the Big Blue Sky.

Below the Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin (pub: April 2020)

Below the Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin

From the bestselling author of The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes comes a huge-hearted novel about death, family and finding laughter in the most bloody mental places.

When forty-year-old Rabbit Hayes dies, she leaves behind a family broken by grief. Her mother Molly is distraught and in danger of losing her faith. Her father Jack spends hour upon hour in the family attic, poring over his old diaries, losing himself in the past. 

Rabbit’s brother Davey finds himself suddenly guardian to her twelve-year-old daughter Juliet. Juliet might be able to fill a hole in Davey’s heart – but how can he help Juliet through her grief when he can barely cope with his own? 

Meanwhile, Rabbit’s sister Grace is struggling with the knowledge that she carries the same gene that made her sister ill, and Rabbit’s best friend Marjorie is lost, struggling to remain a part of a family she has always wished was her own now that her link to them is gone.

But even though the Hayes family are all fighting their own battles, they are drawn together by their love for Rabbit, and their love for each other. In the years that follow her death they find new ways to celebrate and remember her, to find humour and hope in the face of tragedy, and to live life to its fullest, as Rabbit would have wanted.

Below the Big Blue Sky will make you laugh, cry and shout with joy for the colourful, unruly Hayes family as they battle with the loss of their beloved Rabbit, the daughter, mother, sister and friend, who in her own crazy way taught each of them how to live, and goes on showing them how to love from beyond the grave.

~ On my bedside table ~

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper

I’m currently reading These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper. I’ve wanted to read it ever since it was published in 2017. It’s set in an apartment block in Paris and follows the lives of its residents over a very hot summer. I’m really enjoying it.


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 · 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

~ Follow the tour ~

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

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

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

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

Welcome to this week’s round-up of what’s been going on here at Sarah’s Vignettes, on social media, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves and other bookish delights. Keep scrolling to get the lowdown.

~ On the blog ~

The Stationmaster's Daughter by Kathleen McGurl

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


Shelf Control

On Wednesday, I took part in a meme run by fellow book blogger Lisa over at Bookshelf Fantasies called Shelf Control. The idea is to choose a book on your bookshelf that you haven’t read yet and talk about when you got it and why you want to read it.

This week, I chose Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley.

Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley

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

Butterfly in Frost by Sylvia Day

~ On social media ~

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


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

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 3 books to my shelf this week.

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

The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

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

But that’s on the outside.

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

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

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

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


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

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

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

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

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

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

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

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

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


Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

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

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

~ On my bedside table ~

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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


FRANCE magazine, NB, Writing magazine

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


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

Until next week, happy reading!