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
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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The Stationmaster's Daughter blog tour poster
A Week in Books · Ali Pantony · Books · Carol Drinkwater · Claire Dyer · Cynthia Bond · Elizabeth von Arnim · F. Scott Fitzgerald · fiction · Kathleen McGurl · Literary Lowdown · Liz Fenwick · Louise Jensen · Lucy Foley · Nadiya Hussain · Non-Fiction · Rowan Coleman

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 25/08/2019

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 things. 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 Ruby by Cynthia Bond.

~ On social media ~

Last Friday, you may remember I supported author Louise Jensen with a little teaser for her new book The Family . On Tuesday, I took part in the cover reveal. What a fab cover it is!!


For #ThrowbackThursday, I shared the link to my review for The Last Day by Claire Dyer. This book was one of my reading highlights in 2018. It is beautiful.


A bank holiday weekend is ideal for reading a book or two, so I shared a few of my recommended reads from this year over on Twitter:

The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman ~ The House on the Edge of the Cliff by Carol Drinkwater ~ The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick ~ Almost Adults by Ali Pantony

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 2 books to my bookshelf this week and 1 to my mum’s cookery book shelf.

I bought my mum a copy of Nadiya Hussain’s new recipe book:Time to Eat. Have you been watching the tv series? I love it! I’m looking forward to trying out some of Nadiya’s recipes.

Time to Eat by Nadiya Hussain

Feeding a large family and juggling a busy career can be anxiety-inducing so Nadiya has crafted over 100 recipes to take the stress out of cooking and put the joy back in to every meal.

There are recipes for rushed weekday evenings and those relaxed Sunday afternoons, as well as kitchen hacks and time-saving tricks to make every breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a little simpler.


I popped into WHSmith to buy a copy of FRANCE magazine and came out with said magazine and two books from the Penguin Modern Classics collection. They were in a ‘Buy One Get One Half Price’ offer…what’s a bookworm supposed to do!

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The discreet advertisement in The Times, addressed ‘To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine’, offers a small medieval castle for rent, above a bay on the Italian Riviera. Four very different women – the dishevelled and downtrodden Mrs Wilkins, the sad, sweet-faced Mrs Arbuthnot, the formidable widow Mrs Fisher and the ravishing socialite Lady Caroline Dester – are drawn to the shores of the Mediterranean that April. As each, in turn, blossoms in the warmth of the Italian spring and finds their spirits stirring, quite unexpected changes occur.

The Enchanted April, published in 1922, is a witty and delightful depiction of what it is like to rediscover joy.


Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Between the First World War and the Wall Street Crash the French Riviera was the stylish place for wealthy Americans to visit. Among the most fashionable are the Divers, Dick and Nicole who hold court at their villa. Into their circle comes Rosemary Hoyt, a film star, who is instantly attracted to them, but understands little of the dark secrets and hidden corruption that hold them together. As Dick draws closer to Rosemary, he fractures the delicate structure of his marriage and sets both Nicole and himself on to a dangerous path where only the strongest can survive.

In this exquisite, lyrical novel, Fitzgerald has poured much of the essence of his own life; he has also depicted the age of materialism, shattered idealism and broken dreams.

~ On my bedside table ~

The Stationmaster's Daughter by Kathleen McGurl

I finished reading The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl. Watch out for my review tomorrow.


Last night, I started reading The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. Although I’m only 7 pages in, I like what I’ve already read. The premise of this book is great: right at the beginning we know there has been a murder (not a spoiler) but we will only find out who the victim is and the murderer at the end. I can’t wait to see how this plays out!! I shall report back.

What have you been reading and buying 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

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Ask Again, Yes blog tour poster
Advanced Review Copy · Ali Pantony · Blog Tours · Books · fiction · Review Copy · Reviews

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: Almost Adults by Ali Pantony (@alipantony) ~ @EburyPublishing #BlogTour

I am pleased to be sharing with you my review of Almost Adults , the debut novel from journalist and author Ali Pantony.

My thanks to Alice King at Ebury Press for a space on the blog tour and for sending me a proof copy of the book (in return for this honest review).

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is what Almost Adults is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

The struggle is real but at least they’re all in it together.

Ever managed to kill a succulent after just a few days? 
Got seven reminder letters on the kitchen table because you forgot to pay your council tax? 
Become a hot mess who’s falling apart because they’ve been broken up with?

Mackie, Edele, Alex and Nat are navigating their chaotic and confusing twenties together. They have jobs and pay their own rent (well, most of them) but don’t know how to bleed radiators, defrost a freezer or test the smoke alarms.

With break-ups to deal with and major decisions to make, life can get messy especially when they’re still trying to get the hang of this ‘being a grown-up’ thing.

Welcome to the joys of being almost adults.

~ My thoughts ~

Almost Adults is a fresh and uplifting story exploring the power of female friendships. It was such a joy to read and I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

Mackie, Edele, Alex and Nat have been the best of friends for years. Mackie and Alex seem to have life figured out and Nat and Edele are still working it out. Almost Adults charts the highs and lows of the twenty somethings as they navigate their way through their personal and professional lives, asking the question, when is it that we truly become adults? It is the strength of their friendship that gets them through. These are the friends who are there to cheer you on on your good days but more importantly who sit and hold you on the bad days. These women have each others backs and will do anything for one another.

Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view , allowing us to get to know each of them individually and see the other characters how they see them. Each character is relatable and I think there are elements of these women in all of us.

Ali Pantony writes with such ease that the story flows seamlessly and I could easily have read this book in one sitting. Instead, I read it over several lunch breaks and I found that I couldn’t wait to pick up where I last left the girls to find out what was happening and how they were. I felt so comfortable in their company that I felt as though I was an honorary member of their group.

Almost Adults has a lot of heart and I finished it with a smile on my face. It is feel-good fiction and a perfect summer read. This is a brilliant debut and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ali Pantony writes next.

~ Where to find Almost Adults ~

Almost Adults was published by Ebury Press, first as an eBook on 24 June 2019 and in Paperback on 8th August 2019. You can buy it in all good bookshops and on Amazon UK. It is also on goodreads.

~ About Ali Pantony ~

Ali Pantony

Ali Pantony is a freelance writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in Glamour, Grazia, BBC Three, Refinery29, Vice, Red, and Evening Standard. Ali was born in Maidstone, Kent, and lives in North London. Almost Adults is her debut novel.

W: https://www.alipantony.com/ ~ T: @alipantony ~ I: @alipantony

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Books · Carol Drinkwater · Reviews

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: The House on the Edge of the Cliff by Carol Drinkwater (@Carol4OliveFarm) ~ @MichaelJBooks

~ Publisher’s Description ~

No one else knows what happened that summer. Or so she believes . . .

Grace first came to France a lifetime ago. Young and full of dreams of adventure, she met two very different men.

She fell under the spell of one. The other fell under hers.

Until one summer night shattered everything . . .

Now, Grace is living an idyllic life with her husband, sheltered from the world in a magnificent Provençal villa, perched atop a windswept cliff.

Every day she looks out over the sea – the only witness to that fateful night years ago.

Until a stranger arrives at the house. A stranger who knows everything, and won’t leave until he gets what he wants.

The past and present spectacularly collide in this gripping story of love and betrayal echoing across the decades. 

~ My thoughts ~

When I heard that Carol Drinkwater had a new novel coming out, I couldn’t wait to go out and buy a copy. Having loved both The Forgotten Summer and The Lost Girl, I had high hopes for The House on the Edge of the Cliff. I am pleased to say that it did not disappoint!

Rich description of Provence, family drama, intrigue, mystery, passion, loss coupled with what happens when the past and present collide and some twists and turns thrown in, all make The House on the Edge of the Cliff a compelling and gripping read from start to finish.

The intrigue, mystery and passion in this book starts with its elegant front cover, which invites the reader to ask several questions: who is the woman on the rocks? Why is she there? What is she thinking? What’s the significance of the house on the cliff behind her? Well, I can tell you that the woman on the rocks is Grace, the protagonist of The House on the Edge of the Cliff. For the answers to the other questions, you will have to read the book, as I would certainly give away too much of the story here.

We first meet Grace in the present day, at her idyllic villa close to Marseille. Her step daughters and grandchildren are packing up to go home after their holiday. Grace’s grandson wanders off and she goes to find him. When Grace does catch up with him, it’s not quite what she expects. The start of the book really packs a punch and sets up the rhythm and tension for the whole book. We then follow Grace’s life, loves and losses over 50 years.

I really enjoyed the historical elements to this story. Like in The Lost Girl, where Carol Drinkwater set the book around a pivotal moment in France’s history (the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks), The House on the Edge of the Cliff is set around the Paris riots of May 1968. From the detail that goes into these scenes, it is clear that Carol Drinkwater has researched this period to an inch of its life. I learnt a great deal about France’s history when I studied in Paris for 3 years, so I really appreciate these parts of her books as well as the present day France. It feels like coming home.

Another thing I enjoy about Carol Drinkwater’s storytelling, is her ability to write as though she is looking down the lens of a camera, capturing every aspect of the scene in front of her. Each sound of a cicada, perfume of a flower, crack on the wall of the house is described so vividly, I was transported to that moment.

~ Where to find The House on the Edge of the Cliff ~

The House on the Edge of the Cliff by Carol Drinkwater

The House on the Edge of the Cliff was published by Michael Joseph on 16 May 2019 and is available to buy in all good bookshops as well as on Amazon UK . It can also be found on Goodreads.

~ About Carol Drinkwater ~

Carol Drinkwater

Carol Drinkwater is a multi-award-winning actress who is best known for her portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small

Her quartet of memoirs set on her olive farm in the south of France have sold over a million copies worldwide and her solo journey round the Mediterranean in search of the olive tree’s mythical secrets inspired a five-part documentary film series, The Olive Route

She is also the author of novels The Forgotten Summer, The Lost Girl and The House on the Edge of the Cliff

She lives in the south of France where she is writing her next novel.

W: www.caroldrinkwater.com ~ T: @Carol4OliveFarm

Liz Fenwick · Recommended Reads · Reviews · The Riviera Woman · Yorkshire Woman

The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick (@liz_fenwick) @HQStories ~ Recommended Read ~ The Riviera Woman ~ Yorkshire Woman

Over the last 2 years, I have been regularly sharing my top reads from this blog over at The Riviera Woman.

The Riviera Woman, run by Anna Fill, helps women living or working on the Riviera live life to the full with it’s inspirational people and interesting articles. In 2019, Anna set up Yorkshire Woman on the same concept for women living or working in Yorkshire.

I am thrilled that Anna has asked if she can share my reviews at Yorkshire Woman too.

The first of my recommended reads on both sites is The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick. You can read my review on either site by clicking on the logos below.

The Riviera Woman
Yorkshire Woman