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

~ Follow the tour ~

Be sure to drop by the other stops on the When Stars Will Shine blog tour!

A Week in Books · Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Carol Drinkwater · Christmas · Extracts · fiction · Gill Thompson · Joanna Lumley · John Julius Norwich · Julian Fellowes · Linn B. Halton · Literary Lowdown · Liz Fenwick · Megan Angelo · Non-Fiction · Recommended Reads · Rowan Coleman

Sarah's Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 8 December 2019

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

~ On the blog ~

The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson

On Monday, it was my stop on the blog tour for The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson. Sadly, I didn’t have time to read and review the book for the tour but I was able to share a powerful extract from it.

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I looked back on my review of A Greek Affair by Linn B. Halton.


On Friday, I took part in R3COMM3ND3D2019, a brilliant feature run by fellow book blogger Emma Welton. Emma has invited book bloggers, authors and publishers to choose and talk about three must-read books published in 2019.

This was a tough choice as I have read and shouted about many great books this year but these 3 are high up on my list:

~ On my calendar ~

The Ultimate Christmas Cracker, how to Academy event

On Wednesday night, I went to John Julius Norwich’s Ultimate Christmas Cracker in London and it was a real treat. Here’s a bit about it from the event web page:

In 1969, John Julius Norwich, the legendary popular historian, gathered together the favourite things he’d come across in the last 365 days into one short charming pamphlet. Initially just a treat for his friends, it rapidly turned into a huge word-of-mouth success.

This Christmas, How To Academy brings together an all-star cast including – Julian Fellowes, Joanna Lumley, Antony Beevor, and John Julius’s children Artemis and Jason Cooper – to celebrate this institution of English Christmas, honour the memory of John Julius Norwich, and read the finest Crackers from their illustrious 50 year history.

Joanna Lumley, Antony Beevor, Artemis Cooper, Jason Cooper, Julian Fellowes

It was such fun listening to Joanne Lumley and Julian Fellowes read and act out these Christmas Crackers. They truly are national treasures.

Joanna Lumley

Before I went to the event, it hadn’t occurred to me that the cast might be signing copies of their books. I am a huge fan of Joanna Lumley’s work, particularly her documentaries. So, when I had the chance to meet her, I was completely starstruck! There aren’t many times where I am lost for words but this was one of those moments.

Joanna Lumley

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 2 books to my bookshelf this week. One signed memoir and one proof copy of a fiction book, due out in January 2020.

Absolutely by Joanna Lumley

Absolutely by Joanna Lumley

The absolutely fabulous Joanna Lumley opens her private albums for this illustrated memoir. The real-life scrapbook of the woman known as AbFab’s Patsy Stone, this is an intimate memoir of one of Britain’s undisputed national treasures. A former model and Bond girl, her distinctive voice has been supplied for animated characters, film narration, and AOL’s “You’ve got mail” notification in the UK. She discusses speaking out as a human rights activist for Survival International and the recent Gurkha Justice Campaign for which she is now considered a “national treasure” of Nepal because of her support. She has won two BAFTA awards, but it is the sheer diversity of her life that makes her story so compelling; early years in Kashmir and Malaya, growing up in Kent, then a photographic model before becoming an actress, appearing in a huge range of roles.


Followers by Megan Angelo

Followers by Megan Angelo

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

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

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

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

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

An explosive and unsettling novel set in the near-future, perfect for fans of Station Eleven, Black Mirror, The Circle and Friend Request.

~ On my bedside table ~

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

I finished reading The Christmas Party by Karen Swan last night. It is a brilliant read and I’ll be sharing my review here soon.


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 · Advanced Review Copy · Books · fiction · Heidi Swain · Karen Swan · Libby Page · Literary Lowdown · Nikola Scott

Sarah's Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 1 December 2019

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

~ On the blog ~

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.

Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage by Heidi Swain

For this week’s post, I chose Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage by Heidi Swain. How beautiful is the cover! It’s so inviting.

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I chose Summer of Secrets by Nikola Scott.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 1 book to my digital bookshelf this week. It is an advanced copy of The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page, due out in 23rd January 2020.

The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page

The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page

Day and night Stella’s Café opens its doors for the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It is many things to many people but most of all it is a place where life can wait at the door. A place of small kindnesses. A place where anyone can be whoever they want, where everyone is always welcome.

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

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

~ On my bedside table ~

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

I’m reading The Christmas Party by Karen Swan and I’m really enjoying it!


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

Until next week, happy reading!

Blog Tours · Books · 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

~ Follow the tour ~

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

A Week in Books · Alena Graedon · Alis Hawkins · Books · Emma Mitchell · Lucy Coleman · Shelf Control

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 10 November 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, Bookshelf Fantasies

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.

For this week’s post, I chose The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon.

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I chose None So Blind by Alis Hawkins. The tweet below says it all!

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 1 book to my digital bookshelf this week for an upcoming blog tour.

Emma Mitchell, from Creating Perfection, has compiled a multi-genre collection of Christmas themed short stories 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. I am thrilled be part of the blog tour and I cannot wait to read the stories.

When Starts Will Shine, compiled by Emma Mitchell

When Starts 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 Starts Will Shine is due to be published by Creating Perfection on 9 December 2019. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon UK.

~ On my bedside table ~

Magic Under the Mistletoe

I’m still reading Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman. I find that I read slower when I’ve had a really busy week, like this week. It’s a great book and goes deeper than I’d anticipated.


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 · Audio book · Books · Literary Lowdown · Lucy Coleman · Sarah-Jane Statford · Shelf Control · Sue Haasler

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 3 November 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, Bookshelf Fantasies

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.

For this post, I chose Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I chose Half a World Away by Sue Haasler. When I started reading it, I sat down to only read a few pages and 50 pages in, I looked up at the clock. It’s a good read!


On Friday night, I joined Julie Morris for a drink and chat over on her blog A Little Book Problem. We talked about books, blogging, travel, hangover cures and lots more. It was great fun!

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 1 book to my audio bookshelf this week. I haven’t listened to an audiobook in a while but this one really caught my eye. It’ll be a good one to listen to on the commute.

Last Christmas, curated and introduced by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson (released 31 October 2019)

Last Christmas, curated and introduced by Greg Wise & Emma Thompson

The perfect gift book, featuring the writing of Meryl Streep, Bill Bailey, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman, Caitlin Moran, Richard Ayoade, Emily Watson and others, to coincide with the upcoming movie Last Christmas, starring Emma Thompson, Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding. 

When you think back to Christmases past, what (if anything) made it magical? Looking towards the future, what would your perfect Christmas be? What would you change? What should we all change? 

This is a beautiful, funny and soulful collection of personal essays about the meaning of Christmas, written by a unique plethora of voices from the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden. 

Away from the John Lewis advert, the high street decorations and the candied orange in Heston Blumenthal’s Christmas pudding, this gem of a book introduced and curated by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise celebrates the importance of kindness and generosity, acceptance and tolerance – and shows us that these values are not just for Christmas. 

25p of the proceeds received by Quercus from each audiobook sold will be donated to Crisis and The Refugee Council.

Crisis is a registered charity in the UK with charity nos. W1082947 (England/Wales) and SC040094 (Scotland). Refugee Council is a registered charity in the UK with charity no. 1014576.

©2019 Greg Wise and Emma Thompson (P)2019 Quercus Editions Limited

~ On my bedside table ~

Magic Under the Mistletoe

I’m currently reading Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman for the blog tour. It’s really getting me into the Christmas spirit and I can’t wait to share my review with you here on 20th November.


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!

Book Post · Books · Christmas · Holly Martin · Other Bookish Things

#BookPost: Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin (@HollyMAuthor) @BonnierZaffre @ReadersFirst1

Earlier this month, I signed up to Readers First, a new book reviewing community for the UK and Republic of Ireland. As a welcome gift, I was offered a free book from a choice of five and Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin landed on my doormat last weekend!

Continue reading “#BookPost: Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin (@HollyMAuthor) @BonnierZaffre @ReadersFirst1”