A Week in Books · Adele Parks · Liz Fenwick · Non-Fiction · Tom Michell · Virginia Woolf

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 15/09/2019

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 ~

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 The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell.

The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I shared the link to my review for The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick. The tweet below says it all 🙂

~ On my bookshelf ~

It’s been a quiet week for adding books to my bookshelf but I did add 1 to my digital bookshelf.

When I came across the complete writings of Virginia Woolf on Apple Books for 99p, I couldn’t resist downloading them. I much prefer reading a physical copy of a book but this is perfect for dipping in and out of.

Virginia Woolf's writing lodge at Monk's House.

Last year, I visited Monk’s House, Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s 16th-century country retreat in East Sussex. The house and gardens are fascinating but I adored Virginia Woolf’s writing lodge in the garden. It overlooks the South Downs and I can see why she chose to wrote most of her great works there.

Virginia Woolf's desk
Virginia Woolf's desk

Virginia Woolf: The Complete Collection by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf: The Complete Collection by Virginia Woolf

This volume collects the complete writings of Virginia Woolf: 8 novels, 3 ‘biographies,’ 46 short stories, 606 essays, 1 play, her diary and some letters.

Contents:

THE NOVELS
The Voyage Out
Night and Day
Jacob’s Room
Mrs. Dalloway
To the Lighthouse
The Waves
The Years
Between the Acts

THE ‘BIOGRAPHIES’
Orlando: a biography
Flush: a biography
Roger Fry: a biography

THE STORIES
Monday or Tuesday
A Haunted House, and other short stories
Mrs Dalloway’s Party
The Complete Shorter Fiction

THE ESSAYS
The Common Reader I
A Room of One’s Own
On Being Ill
The London Scene
The Common Reader II
Three Guineas
The Death of the Moth, and other essays
The Moment, and other essays
The Captain’s Death Bed, and other essays
Granite and Rainbow
Books and Portraits
Women And Writing
383 Essays from newspapers and magazines

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL WRITING
A Writer’s Diary
Moments of Being
The Diary Vols. 1–5
The Letters Vols. 1–6
The Letters of V.W. and Lytton Strachey
A Passionate Apprentice. The Early Journals 1887-1909

THE PLAY
Freshwater: A Comedy (both versions)

~ On my bedside table ~

Lies, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks

Since last week’s lowdown, I have read Lies, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks. Crikey, it kept me on my toes right from Page 1 until the very end. It’s a super read and I will pop a review on here once my thoughts are in a coherent order. It’s left me with such a book hangover that I haven’t started reading anything else yet.


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!

Books · Non-Fiction · Shelf Control · Tom Michell

Shelf Control: The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell

Shelf Control ~ Bookshelf Fantasies

Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies.  It is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves.  Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.


I love this idea of celebrating books on our book shelves that have been published for a while and we are yet to discover. I’m not choosing in any particular order. I’m just perusing my shelves and seeing what stands out for me at that moment.

This week, I have chosen a non-fiction book:

The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell

The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell.

This edition was published in the UK by Penguin Books in 2016.

~ What it’s about ~

Tom Michell is in his roaring twenties: single, free-spirited and seeking adventure. He has a plane ticket to South America, a teaching position in a prestigious Argentine boarding school, and endless summer holidays. He even has a motorbike, Che Guevara style. What he doesn’t need is a pet. What he really doesn’t need is a pet penguin.

Set against Argentina’s turbulent years following the collapse of the corrupt Perónist regime, this is the heart-warming story of Juan Salvador the penguin, rescued by Tom from an oil slick in Uruguay just days before a new term. When the bird refuses to leave Tom’s side, the young teacher has no choice but to smuggle it across the border, through customs, and back to school. Whether it’s as the rugby team’s mascot, the housekeeper’s confidant, the host at Tom’s parties or the most flamboyant swimming coach in world history, Juan Salvador transforms the lives of all he meets – in particular one homesick school boy. And as for Tom, he discovers in Juan Salvador a compadre like no other…

~ When I added it to my book shelf ~

I bought this book after it was featured on the BBC Radio 2 Book Club.

~ Why I want to read it ~

Oh that description coupled with the cute book cover makes me feel all warm and fuzzy! This sounds such a charming and delightful story and there’s something beautiful about a special relationship between a human and an animal.

Book Hauls · Books · fiction · Rachel Rhys · Shelf Control

Shelf Control: Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

Shelf Control ~ Bookshelf Fantasies

Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies.  It is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves.  Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.


I love this idea of celebrating books on our book shelves that have been published for a while and we are yet to discover. I’m not choosing in any particular order. I’m just perusing my shelves and seeing what stands out for me at that moment.

This week, I have chosen:

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys.

Published in the UK by Black Swan in 2017.

~ What it’s about ~

England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …

Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.

What has she done?

~ When I added it to my book shelf ~

I actually cannot remember when I bought this book. I can’t find any photos of it but I am sure it was not long before I got my blog off of the ground (in April 2017) as it was published in 2017 .

~ Why I want to read it ~

Have you read the description! Glamour, mystery, secrets…it’s my type of read. Plus, I love to read books set around World War 2. I remember seeing a lot of positive shout outs about this story, when it was first published as A Dangerous Crossing and then again as Dangerous Crossing and a Richard and Judy pick.

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

~ 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 · 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

Books · Carol Drinkwater · Recommended Reads · Reviews

#Review: The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater (@Carol4OliveFarm) @MichaelJBooks

~ Book Blurb ~

Her daughter disappeared four years ago. . .

Since her daughter went missing four years earlier, celebrated photographer Kurtiz Ross has been a woman alone. Her only companion her camera. Since Lizzie disappeared, she has blamed and isolated herself, given up hope. Until, out of the blue, an unexpected sighting of Lizzie is made in Paris. Continue reading “#Review: The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater (@Carol4OliveFarm) @MichaelJBooks”