A Week in Books · Books · Charlotte Collins · Emily Gunnis · Karen Swan · Literary Lowdown · Lucy Coleman · Nino Haratischvili · Ruth Martin · Salley Vickers

Sarah’s Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 24 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 ~

Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman

Wednesday was my stop on the blog tour for Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman. This is a book with a big heart and I loved it!

~ On social media ~

For #FlashbackFriday, I chose The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis.

~ On my calendar ~

Karen Swan

On Wednesday, I went to An Evening with author Karen Swan at Hobbs in Covent Garden, London. Karen spoke about her writing, research and answered our questions. She also treated us to a couple of readings from her latest novel The Christmas Party. We all had the opportunity to get our books signed and chat with Karen individually. It was a fun night!

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 3 books to my bookshelf this week.

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

When Declan Lorne, the last remaining knight in Ireland, dies suddenly, an ancient title passes with him. But his estate on Ireland’s rugged south-west coast is left to his three daughters. The two eldest, Ottie and Pip, inherit in line with expectations, but to everyone’s surprise – and dismay – it is the errant baby of the family, Willow, who gets the castle.

Why her? Something unknown – something terrible – made her turn her back on her family three years earlier, escaping to Dublin and vowing never to return. So when Willow quickly announces she is selling up, her revenge seems sweet and the once-close sisters are pushed to breaking point: in desperation, Pip risks everything to secure her own future, and Ottie makes a decision that will ruin lives. It’s each woman for herself.

Before moving in, Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, negotiates throwing a lavish party at the castle just days before Christmas – his hello, their goodbye. But as their secrets begin to catch up with them, Ottie, Willow and Pip are forced to ask themselves which is harder: stepping into the future, or letting go of the past?


Grandmothers by Salley Vickers

Grandmothers by Salley Vickers

Grandmothers is the story of three very different women and their relationship with the younger generation: fiercely independent Nan, who leads a secret life as an award-winning poet when she is not teaching her grandson Billy how to lie; glamorous Blanche, deprived of the company of her beloved granddaughter Kitty by her hostile daughter-in-law, who finds solace in rebelliously taking to drink and shop lifting; and shy, bookish Minna who in the safety of shepherd’s hut shares with her surrogate granddaughter Rose her passion for reading. The outlook of all three women subtly alters when through their encounters with each other they discover that the past is always with us and that we go on learning and changing until the very end.

Grandmothers is a beautifully observed, sometimes subversive, often tender and elegiac novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Librarian.


The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili (translated by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin)

The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili (translated by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin)

Six romances, one revolution, the story of the century.

‘That night Stasia took an oath, swearing to learn the recipe by heart and destroy the paper. And when she was lying in her bed again, recalling the taste with all her senses, she was sure that this secret recipe could heal wounds, avert catastrophes, and bring people happiness. But she was wrong.’

At the start of the twentieth century, on the edge of the Russian Empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. A caution which is justified: this is a recipe for ecstasy that carries a very bitter aftertaste …

Stasia learns it from her Georgian father and takes it north, following her new husband, Simon, to his posting at the centre of the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. Stasia’s is only the first in a symphony of grand but all too often doomed romances that swirl from sweet to sour in this epic tale of the red century.

Tumbling down the years, and across vast expanses of longing and loss, generation after generation of this compelling family hears echoes and sees reflections. Great characters and greater relationships come and go and come again; the world shakes, and shakes some more, and the reader rejoices to have found at last one of those glorious old books in which you can live and learn, be lost and found, and make indelible new friends.

~ On my bedside table ~

When Stars Will Shine: Helping our Heroes One Page at a Time, compiled by Emma Mitchell

I’m finishing off the final few stories in When Stars Will Shine, compiled by Emma Mitchell. I’ll be sharing my review of this great collection on 10th December.


What books 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
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

~ Follow the tour~

Be sure to drop by the other stops on the Almost Adults blog tour!

Almost Adults blog tour poster
Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Review Copy · Reviews · Rowan Coleman

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman (@rowancoleman) ~ @EburyPublishing ~ @annecater #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour

I am thrilled to be able to finally share with you my review of The Girl at the Window by Sunday Times bestselling author Rowan Coleman. I read it back in June and it blew me away. I’ve been itching to talk about it ever since.

My thanks to Ellie Crisp at Ebury Press for sending me a stunning proof copy of the novel (in return for my honest review) and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Before I finally share my thoughts with you, here is what The Girl at the Window is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

~ My thoughts ~

Whenever I can, I like to read a physical copy of a book. For me, there is something about holding it, turning its pages, and looking at the book’s cover each time I pick it up. I feel I become part of the book. This was certainly the case with The Girl at the Window and my enjoyment started with its beautiful front cover. Even the proof copy of the book is a thing beauty.

I have five of Rowan Coleman’s novels sitting on my bookshelf, patiently waiting to be read. For some reason, The Girl at the Window is the first one that I am reading but I do understand why. I am a great believer that some books come to us at the exact time that we are supposed to read them and The Girl at the Window is one of those books. It is simply stunning and what an introduction to Rowan Coleman’s writing!

The Girl at the Window is a hauntingly beautiful story about love and hope. When Trudy Heaton’s husband goes missing, she returns to her family home, Ponden Hall, with son Will in tow. As Trudy becomes reacquainted with her mother and the Hall, both the house and its surroundings start to offer up some of their secrets. 

The book is divided into six Parts, each part introduced by an Emily Bronte poem. It moves between present day, Trudy and her husband Abe’s story and the historical story. Each story is so intricately and delicately woven together, they flow seamlessly. If I’d had the time, I could have easily read The Girl at the Window in one sitting. It is captivating! Rowan Coleman’s love of the Bronte’s really shines through in this book too and Emily Bronte is living within its pages.

Rowan Coleman’s writing has a gentle, softly spoken nature to it – one I’ve not experienced before. It’s tender almost, holding your hand as you travel Trudy’s journey with her. It’s sensitive to all of the characters stories, both past and present. 

Whilst immersed in this story, I laughed, I cried, my heart pounded several times, but most all, I loved. The Girl at the Window really does have the whole package. It is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I highly recommend it!

~ Where to find The Girl at the Window ~

The Girl at the Window was published by Ebury Press, first as eBook on 27 June 2019 and will be published in Paperback on 8th August 2019. You can buy it in all good bookshops and on Amazon UK. It is also on Goodreads.

~ About Rowan Coleman ~

Rowan Coleman

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband and their five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family. Rowan’s last novel, The Summer of Impossible Things , was selected for Zoe Ball’s ITV Book Club. Rowan has an everlasting love for the Brontes, and is a regular visitor of Ponden Hall.

W: www.rowancoleman.com ~ T: @rowancoleman ~ F: @rowancolemanauthor ~ I: @rowanmcoleman

~ Follow the tour~

Be sure to drop by the other stops on the The Girl at the Window blog tour!

The Girl at the Window 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

Linn B. Halton · Recommended Reads · Reviews · The Riviera Woman

A Greek Affair by Linn B. Halton (@LinnBHalton) @HarperImpulse ~ Recommended Read ~ The Riviera Woman

I regularly share 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.

For February, I have chosen A Greek Affair by Linn B. Halton. You can read my review here.

Books · Recommended Reads · Reviews · Ronnie Turner · The Riviera Woman

Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner (@Ronnie_Turner) @HQDigitalUK ~ Recommended Read ~ The Riviera Woman

I regularly share 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.

For November, I have chosen Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner. You can read my review here.

Lies Between Us