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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 · 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!

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!

Advanced Review Copy · Anthology · Books · Recommended Reads · Reviews · Short Stories · The Riviera Woman

CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour @OrendaBooks @the_cwa ~ Recommended Read ~ The Riviera Woman

Each month, I share one of my top reads from this blog over at The Riviera Woman.  Continue reading “CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour @OrendaBooks @the_cwa ~ Recommended Read ~ The Riviera Woman”

Advanced Review Copy · Anthology · Blog Tours · Books · Crime · Short Stories

#BlogTour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by @medwardsbooks @the_cwa @OrendaBooks #CWAMysteryTour

Today, I am delighted to be sharing with you my thoughts about the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour. Thank you to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for asking me to take part in the tour and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is what the anthology is about. Continue reading “#BlogTour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by @medwardsbooks @the_cwa @OrendaBooks #CWAMysteryTour”