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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 · Ali Pantony · Anna Hope · Books · Carol Drinkwater · Claire Dyer · Fiona Harper · Katherine Center · Linn B. Halton · Lisa Jewell · Literary Lowdown · Liz Fenwick · Malorie Blackman · Mary Beth Keane · Non-Fiction · Rachael English · Rachel Rhys · Rowan Coleman · Shelf Control · Stacey Halls · Tom Mole · Victoria Hislop

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 08/09/2019

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. Lots of things happened this week!!

~ On the blog ~

Shelf Control

On Friday, 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 Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys.

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I shared the link to my review for The American Girl by Rachael English. I don’t know what it is about the works of Irish writers but there is something so comfortable and familiar about their writing that make them natural storytellers, and Rachael English is one of them.

On Friday, #NationalReadABookDay was trending on Twitter so I shared some of my favourite authors whose books I’ve read and reviewed on here.

Rowan Coleman ~ Liz Fenwick ~ Carol Drinkwater ~ Claire Dyer ~ Linn B. Halton ~ Rachael English ~ Katherine Center ~ Ali Pantony ~ Fiona Harper ~ Victoria Hislop

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 5 books to my shelf this week.

On Wednesday, I received a copy of The Secret Life of Books by Tom Mole from the fab team at Elliott & Thompson, due to be published on 19th September. I enjoy reading any non-fiction books on the subjects of language, linguistics and books so I think this one will be right up my street!

The Secret Life of Books by Tom Mole

The Secret Life of Books by Tom Mole

We love books. We take them to bed with us. They weigh down our suitcases when we go on holiday. We display them on our bookshelves or store them in our attics. We give them as gifts. We write our names in them. We take them for granted. And all the time, our books are leading a double life.

The Secret Life of Books is about everything that isn’t just the words. It’s about how books transform us as individuals. It’s about how books – and readers – have evolved over time. And it’s about why, even with the arrival of other media, books still have the power to change our lives.

In this illuminating account, Tom Mole looks at everything from binding innovations to binding errors, to books defaced by lovers, to those imprisoning professors in their offices, to books in art, to burned books, to the books that create nations, to those we’ll leave behind.

It will change how you think about books.


On Thursday night, I went to an author event at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road. Mary Beth Keane and Anna Hope were talking about their latest books Ask Again, Yes and Expectation with Alison Barrow from Penguin Random House.

I love hearing the stories behind the story – how the book came to be what it is. I read and reviewed Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane for the blog tour so I was intrigued to find out more about it. Expectation by Anna Hope sounds brilliant and I made the good mistake of reading the first page on the train home – wow, the writing. I was drawn in from the first sentence!!

I bumped into Nina Pottell, Books Editor from PRIMA magazine and Leilah Skelton from Little Tiger whilst I was there.

Alison Barrow, Mary Beth Keane and Anna Hope
From left to right: Alison Barrow, Mary Beth Keane, Anna Hope

Me with Nina Pottell, Books Editor from Prima magazine
Me with Nina Pottell

Expectation by Anna Hope

A contemporary feminist take on the pursuit of happiness: three women think they can have it all. Until they realise that even having some of it can be a challenge.

Love, children, career – modern women are expected to have all three. But what must they sacrifice to win any of them, and how much heartache must be endured? Three life-long friends are about to find out.

Can Hannah, a successful career woman with a caring husband have the baby she longs for?

Will Cate, a thoughtful, loving wife and mother ever recover her intellectual life and independence?

Lissa is charismatic, beautiful and unconventional. She chose a life of fulfilment in the theatre over settled domesticity – but will it ever really materialise?

Anna Hope’s fierce and compelling novel of friendship and the pressure to succeed as a woman takes three lives and asks, what does it really take to make us happy?


When I was 15, I borrowed a copy of Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman from my school library. I devoured it and was blown away by it. It was so ahead of it’s time. 17 years later, Crossfire , the sequel to Noughts & Crosses , is out and I found a signed copy of it in Waterstones Guildford yesterday.

Crossfire by Malorie Blackman

Thirty-four years have passed since Sephy Hadley – a Cross – first met Callum McGregor – a nought. Their love was forbidden, powerful – and deadly.

Life is seemingly very different now for noughts and Crosses – including for Sephy and Callum’s families. But old wounds from the past are hard to heal, and when you’re playing a game as dangerous as they are, it won’t be long before someone gets caught in the crossfire.


Me with Adele Parks
Me with Adele Parks

Whilst I was waiting in the queue to pay for Crossfire , I bumped into Adele Parks! She had popped into the shop to sign copies of her latest novel Lies, Lies, Lies , which was published on Thursday.

Lies, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks

Lies, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks

Daisy and Simon’s marriage is great, isn’t it? After years together, the arrival of longed-for daughter Millie sealed everything in place. A happy little family of three. And so what if Simon drinks a bit too much sometimes – Daisy’s used to it, she knows he’s letting off steam. Until one night at a party things spiral horribly out of control. And that happy little family of three will never be the same again.

In Lies Lies Lies, Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks explores the darkest corners of a relationship in freefall in a mesmerising tale of marriage and secrets.


I also bought a copy of The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell. Lisa is one of the speakers at Guildford Book Festival’s Readers’ Day next month and I wanted to try to read it before the event.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.

In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.

They’ve been dead for several days.

Who has been looking after the baby?

And where did they go?

Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.
A compulsive new thriller from Lisa Jewell.

~ On my bedside table ~

I’m reading The Familiars by Stacey Halls at the moment. The story is set in the 1600s, which is not a period in history I usually read or know much about. It’s an intriguing story!


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 · 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
Books · Irish Writers · Rachael English · Recommended Reads · Reviews · The Riviera Woman

Find my review of The American Girl by Rachael English (@EnglishRachael) at The Riviera Woman (@TheRivieraWoman)

Each month, I share one of my top reads from this blog over at The Riviera Woman. 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.

This month, I have chosen The American Girl by Rachael English. You can read my review here.

 

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Book Post · Books · Other Bookish Things · Rachael English

#BookPost: The American Girl by Rachael English (@EnglishRachael) @HachetteIre

How many times have you entered giveaways, via social media or Goodreads, for books you really want to read and then think nothing of it because you never win? If you’re anything like me, the answer is quite a few times! Continue reading “#BookPost: The American Girl by Rachael English (@EnglishRachael) @HachetteIre”