#BookReview: The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt @noexitpress #TheKillingHills #damppebbles

“A literary master across genres, award-winning author Chris Offutt’s latest novel The Killing Hills is a compelling, propulsive thriller in which a suspicious death exposes the loyalties and rivalries of a deep-rooted and fiercely private community in the Kentucky backwoods.

Mick Hardin, a combat veteran now working as an Army CID agent, is home on a leave that is almost done. His wife is about to give birth, but they aren’t getting along. His sister, newly risen to sheriff, has just landed her first murder case, and local politicians are pushing for city police or the FBI to take the case. Are they convinced she can’t handle it, or is there something else at work? She calls on Mick who, with his homicide investigation experience and familiarity with the terrain, is well-suited to staying under the radar. As he delves into the investigation, he dodges his commanding officer’s increasingly urgent calls while attempting to head off further murders. And he needs to talk to his wife.

The Killing Hills is a novel of betrayal – sexual, personal, within and between the clans that populate the hollers – and the way it so often shades into violence. Chris Offutt has delivered a dark, witty, and absolutely compelling novel of murder and honour, with an investigator-hero unlike any in fiction.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt. The Killing Hills was published by No Exit Press on 23rd November 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Killing Hills but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Hollie at No Exit Press for sending me a finished copy.

Upon seeing The Killing Hills for the first time I knew I had to read it. I am such a huge fan of small town literary crime thrillers and this one looked to tick all of the boxes. That feeling you get in your gut that tells you that you can’t let a particular book pass you by? Yup, that’s what I felt. So as soon as The Killing Hills arrived at damppebbles HQ, I got stuck in. I just couldn’t resist. And I savoured every second I spent with this beautifully written mystery.

Mick Hardin is home from the army to sort out a few personal problems he’s having when his sheriff sister, Linda, ropes him in to help with her first murder investigation. Mick, a combat veteran now working with Army CID, has the hands on experience Linda lacks. As the investigation progresses and his marriage spirals out of control, Mick is drawn deeper and deeper into the closed Kentucky hill community he left behind years ago. Can Mick solve the murder before the killer strikes again…?

This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it certainly won’t be the last. I was transported to another world thanks to Offutt’s vivid imagery, his standout characters and his clear love of the Kentucky hills. I’m very much a ‘character’ reader. I like the characters in the novels I read to stand tall from the page. But I also love a setting that becomes as much a part of the story as the characters themselves. Where the characters and the setting are weighted almost equally. And Offutt does exactly that in The Killing Hills.

With pressure on Linda from outside the community to solve the murder, Mick uses his years of experience to assist her in the investigation. The brother/sister bond these two have makes for a very enjoyable read. The well placed digs, the history held between the two of them, the obvious admiration. The retorts, the hard hitting truths no one else would dare speak, the perfectly placed moments of humour. I really warmed to both characters and I hope this is not the last we see of them.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Killing Hills ticked all the boxes for me and I relished every moment I spent in the Kentucky hills. I loved the community and the constant dead ends Mick faced as the hill folk closed ranks. Only by Mick using his own knowledge of local life was he able to chip away at the truth and make gradual progress. Marvellous stuff! The mystery aspect of the novel was wonderfully intriguing and I was at a loss as to whodunit. I also really enjoyed the sub-plot of Mick’s failing marriage and it’s unexpected spin. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read which I recommend.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Killing Hills. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt was published in the UK by No Exit Press on 23rd November 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Chris Offutt

© Melissa Ginsburg

Chris Offutt is the author of the short-story collections Kentucky Straight and Out of the Woods, the novels The Good BrotherCountry Dark and The Killing Hills, and three memoirs: The Same River TwiceNo Heroes, and My Father, the Pornographer. His work has appeared in Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays, among many other places. He has written screenplays for WeedsTrue Blood, and Treme, and has received fellowships from the Lannan and Guggenheim foundations.

#BookReview: The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett @ViperBooks #TheTwyfordCode #damppebbles

“It’s time to solve the murder of the century…

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. Wanting to know more, he took it to his English teacher Miss Iles, not realising the chain of events that he was setting in motion. Miss Iles became convinced that the book was the key to solving a puzzle, and that a message in secret code ran through all Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Iles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven has no memory of what happened to her.

Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Iles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today?

Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Iles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn’t the only one trying to solve it…

Perfect for fans of Richard Osman, Alex Pavesi and S.J. Bennett, The Twyford Code will keep you up puzzling late into the night.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett. The Twyford Code is published by Viper Books today (that’s Thursday 13th January 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Twyford Code but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Viper Books for sending me an early proof copy.

When making a list of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year, it was no secret that The Twyford Code was at the very top, the very pinnacle, of that list. Hallett’s debut, The Appeal, completely blew me away with its clever plotting, completely original format and captivating mystery when I read it twelve or so months ago. I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on more of this talented authors work. Would the story and characters be as absorbing? Would the format be as interesting and unique? Would the mystery be as satisfying? Yes, yes and yes! The Twyford Code was an absolute ‘must-read’ for me and what a complete and utter joy it was from start to finish.

Schoolboy Steven Smith finds a battered copy of an old book on the bus one day which he takes into his remedial English class only for it to be confiscated by his teacher, Miss Isles. Despite it being outdated and officially banned, Miss Isles begins to read aloud the story written by disgraced children’s author Edith Twyford. The class are enraptured by the tale. But then Miss Isles notices annotations and strange markings in the margins, which she believes is secret code. It becomes somewhat of an obsession for the group, ending in an ill-fated trip to the coast and Twyford’s old stomping ground. Fast forward many years and Steven is fresh out of prison. Having recently met his son for the first time and armed with his son’s old mobile phone, Steven sets out to solve the mystery of the Twyford Code and finish what Miss Isles started all those years ago…

There is so much I want to say about this book, so much TO say about The Twyford Code. The author has absolutely gone and done it again with another beautifully crafted and intricate mystery which I fell head over heels in love with. First of all, the characters are sublime. Hallett is an expert at getting under the skin of people and making her creations feel incredibly lifelike. They have flaws, they have weaknesses but you can’t help but feel fondness towards them. This was my experience of Steven Smith. He’s not a bad bloke but he made a few dodgy decisions along the way, probably not helped by a tough upbringing. But my heart went out to him. A thoroughly intriguing character with hidden depths. I was glad he was my guide throughout the twists and the turns of the Twyford Code.

If you’ve read The Appeal then you will be aware that this author likes to spice things up for her readers by throwing away tradition and taking a completely different approach to her storytelling. In The Appeal the story was told through emails, texts and WhatsApp messages. In The Twyford Code we have audio files which have been converted to text via transcription software. Sometimes it’s spot on. Other times…it’s not. Which makes for thoroughly entertaining reading. I was a little worried initially that I would be slow to make the connections needed, work out what was being said. But I shouldn’t have worried as I was in very safe hands. Before long the words were flowing and the misinterpretations and notations in the text were as normal as normal can be. What a skill to come up with something so clever and then make sure it works across the board. Absolutely marvellous!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Janice Hallett has once again engaged, amazed and enthralled this reader and I cannot (CANNOT) wait to see what she comes up with next. Beautifully complex, utterly absorbing and an experience from start to finish. I loved the mystery, I loved the characters and I loved the way the book swept me away to another world. There is something very special about this author’s books and I urge you, if you’re a fan of a well-written mystery, to do everything you can to get hold of copies. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett was published in the UK by Viper Books on 13th January 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Janice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist and government communications writer. She wrote articles and speeches for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office and Department for International Development. Her enthusiasm for travel has taken her around the world several times, from Madagascar to the Galapagos, Guatemala to Zimbabwe, Japan, Russia and South Korea. A playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and co-wrote the feature film Retreat, a psychological thriller starring Cillian Murphy, Thandiwe Newton and Jamie Bell. The Appeal is her first novel.

WWW Wednesday | 12th January 2022 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley
Welcome to No.12 rue des Amants

A beautiful old apartment block, far from the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the bustling banks of the Seine.

Where nothing goes unseen.
And everyone has a story to unlock.

The watchful concierge
The scorned lover
The prying journalist
The naïve student
The unwanted guest

Something terrible happened here last night.
A mystery lies behind the door of apartment three.

Only you – and the killer – hold the key . . .

What did you recently finish reading?

The Perfect Escape Leah Konen
When her husband Harry walks out after just six months, a girls’ weekend away with two friends seems like just what Sam needs.

But they aren’t even halfway to their destination when things start to go wrong: car trouble that just happens to leave them stranded in the town where Harry lives.

And that’s only the beginning.

Because there are three things Sam doesn’t yet know:

One of her friends is lying about what happened.
One is lying about who she is.
And one of them will never make it home . . .

Breathless by Amy McCulloch
When struggling journalist Cecily Wong is invited to join an expedition to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains, it seems like the chance of a lifetime.

She doesn’t realise how deadly the climb will be.

As their small team starts to climb, things start to go wrong. There’s a theft. Then an accident. Then a mysterious note, pinned to her tent: there’s a murderer on the mountain.

The higher they get, the more dangerous the climb becomes, and the more they need to trust one another.

And that’s when Cecily finds the first body . . .

What do you think you’ll read next?

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson
If you’re on the list you’re marked for death.

The envelope is unremarkable. There is no return address. It contains a single, folded, sheet of white paper.

The envelope drops through the mail slot like any other piece of post. But for the nine complete strangers who receive it – each of them recognising just one name, their own, on the enclosed list – it will be the most life altering letter they ever receive. It could also be the last, as one by one, they start to meet their end.

But why?

#BookReview: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #TheGirlWithAClockForAHeart #damppebbles

“George Foss never thought he’d see her again, but on a late-August night in Boston, there she is, in his local bar, Jack’s Tavern.

When George first met her, she was an eighteen-year-old college freshman from Sweetgum, Florida. She and George became inseparable in their first fall semester, so George was devastated when he got the news that she had committed suicide over Christmas break. But, as he stood in the living room of the girl’s grieving parents, he realized the girl in the photo on their mantelpiece – the one who had committed suicide – was not his girlfriend. Later, he discovered the true identity of the girl he had loved – and of the things she may have done to escape her past.

Now, twenty years later, she’s back, and she’s telling George that he’s the only one who can help her…

In his electrifying debut, Peter Swanson evokes the spirit of Body Heat and Double Indemnity, in a thriller about love, loss and those memories we hold closest to our hearts.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson. The Girl with a Clock for a Heart was published by Faber & Faber on 2nd June 2016 and is available in all formats.

It’s a well-known fact that I am, officially, the world’s biggest Peter Swanson fan (the nice kind, of course, not the stalker kind 😬). So I was aghast when I realised that one book from Swanson’s back catalogue was missing from my shelf, his debut – The Girl with a Clock for a Heart. I wanted to rectify this heinous oversight of mine as quickly as possible so bumped everything else I was planning on reading down a notch to make room for this cracking debut!

George Foss lives a fairly ordinary life where nothing much happens, which is exactly how George likes it. Until the day he sees someone he recognises in a bar. He thinks it’s his college girlfriend, the woman who broke his heart and, if truth be told, he never got over. But that can’t be right. Because George’s college girlfriend committed suicide. Or so he thought. On leaving the bar George knows he’ll never rest if he doesn’t check, so he returns, spinning his date a tall tale in order to call an early halt to the evening’s proceedings. Within moments of re-entering the bar he knows for sure, it’s her. And she needs George’s help. He’s the only person who can help her. But George’s willingness to do anything for the love of his life may be the death of him…

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is an intriguing, well written mystery full of, what has become over time, Swanson’s trademark suspense. I really liked George but wanted to him to wake up and smell the coffee. However, his obsession with Liana seems to completely cloud his judgment (it did then, it certainly does now), very much returning him to the intensity of first love infatuation. And don’t we all remember that?! Well, no…perhaps not to George’s extremes, but each to their own.

Told in the past and the present, I really enjoyed the flashbacks to the early years of George and Liana’s relationship. Discovering exactly what terrible deceit Liana had spun to George as teens. There are multiple twists and turns throughout the book which keep the reader on their toes and I became desperate to discover the next jaw-dropping reveal, refusing to put the book down for any length of time. The way the author slowly reveals to the reader what happened twenty years ago had me on the edge of my seat.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend The Girl with a Clock for a Heart along with Swanson’s entire back catalogue because he is an absolute master storyteller. The way this author writes suspense is like nobody else and it’s an absolute joy – a tense, unnerving, pulse-racing joy – to read. I firmly remain Peter Swanson’s biggest fan and I look forward, with baited breath, to his next release which is Nine Lives in March 2022 (and then the one after that, and the one after that, and so on…). Recommended.

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber and Faber on 2nd June 2016 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Peter Swanson is the author of six novels including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year, and his most recent thriller, Eight Perfect Murders. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

#BookReview: Opal Country by Chris Hammer @Wildfirebks #OpalCountry #damppebbles

“Opals…

In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable youngsters and billionaires do as they please.

Bodies…

Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner’s death is straight-forward, not even who found the body. Homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan.

But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations. Have Ivan and Nell been set up, and if so, by whom?

Secrets…

As time runs out, their only chance at redemption is to find the killer. But the more they uncover, the more harrowing the mystery becomes, and a past long forgotten is thrown into scorching sunlight.

Because in Finnigans Gap, nothing stays buried for ever.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Opal Country by Chris Hammer. Opal Country is published by Wildfire Books today (that’s Thursday 6th January 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Opal Country but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely adore Australian crime fiction. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles that previous statement probably comes as no surprise to you because Australian crime fiction gets priority above everything else for me at the moment. So when I saw Chris Hammer was due to publish a standalone mystery, I knew I had to read it. I’m a huge fan of the author’s Martin Scarsden thriller series so I knew Opal Country would be good. And I wasn’t wrong!

Finnigans Gap doesn’t have a lot going for it. Desolate and decaying, it’s a town kept alive thanks only to the opal mines which rumble away underground. When ratters, out to make a quick buck, discover the crucified body of Jonas McGee, the close knit community closes ranks. Sydney-based Detective, Ivan Lucic is called in to investigate the grisly death assisted by local police officer, Detective Constable Nell Buchanan. Together they come up against dead end after dead end. Time is running out for Nell and Ivan, internal affairs are breathing down their necks and they both realise this could be the end of their careers. Can they discover who killed McGee, and why, before it’s too late…?

Opal Country is a gripping slow burn of a novel with truly compelling characterisation and an intriguing mystery at its heart. The author has created an intricate tale with many threads, all expertly linked and concluded by the final paragraph leaving the reader with the knowledge that they’ve read a very clever, very satisfying work of fiction. I really warmed to both Ivan Lucic and Nell Buchanan who make a great team, despite initial differences, and hope this isn’t the last we see of them. The more dead ends they came up against, the more I rallied for them.

Like many of Hammer’s earlier books, Opal Country is not a short novel and takes it’s time to build the story, set the scene and introduce you to the key players. At no point during the 504 pages did my interest or attention wane.  I was completely absorbed by the plot and the characters, and of course, the atmospheric setting. With the burning sun beating down on the rain starved ground, and the dust swirling in the air, I could feel the blistering intensity of the heat. Particularly as Nell laughed, once again, at Ivan for deciding to walk around Finnigans Gap, risking third degree burns from the unrelenting fireball in the sky. So wonderfully vivid, I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found Opal Country to be a very compelling, very informative read which taught me a few things about mining I never knew. The story is quite complex at times but I never felt lost or confused, and everything is tied up masterfully by the author by the end. A very enjoyable crime thriller which drew me in from early on and didn’t let me go until I closed the final page. Hammer is a fantastic storyteller and I can’t wait to see what he has for us readers next. Crime fiction fans, you need Opal Country on your shelf! Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Opal Country. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Opal Country by Chris Hammer was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 6th January 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Chris HammerChris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than 30 countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

His first book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award.

Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.

WWW Wednesday | 5th January 2022 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

The Perfect Escape Leah Konen
When her husband Harry walks out after just six months, a girls’ weekend away with two friends seems like just what Sam needs.

But they aren’t even halfway to their destination when things start to go wrong: car trouble that just happens to leave them stranded in the town where Harry lives.

And that’s only the beginning.

Because there are three things Sam doesn’t yet know:

One of her friends is lying about what happened.
One is lying about who she is.
And one of them will never make it home . . .

What did you recently finish reading?

Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
It’s One Thing to Lose Your Life
It’s Another to Lose Your Soul

When climber Nick Grevers is brought down from the mountains after a terrible accident he has lost his looks, his hopes and his climbing companion. His account of what happened on the forbidden peak of the Maudit is garbled, almost hallucinogenic. Soon it becomes apparent more than his shattered body has returned: those that treat his disfigured face begin experiencing extraordinary and disturbing psychic events that suggest that Nick has unleashed some ancient and primal menace on his ill-fated expedition.

Nick’s partner Sam Avery has a terrible choice to make. He fell in love with Nick’s youth, vitality and beauty. Now these are gone and all that is left is a haunted mummy-worse, a glimpse beneath the bandages can literally send a person insane.

Sam must decide: either to flee to America, or to take Nick on a journey back to the mountains, the very source of the curse, the little Alpine Village of Grimnetz, its soul-possessed Birds of Death and it legends of human sacrifice and, ultimately, its haunted mountain, the Maudit.

Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a Hugo Award Winner and has been hailed as the future of speculative fiction in Europe. His work combines a unique blend of popular culture and fairy-tale myth that is utterly unique. Echo follows his sensational debut English language novel, HEX.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Breathless by Amy McCulloch
When struggling journalist Cecily Wong is invited to join an expedition to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains, it seems like the chance of a lifetime.

She doesn’t realise how deadly the climb will be.

As their small team starts to climb, things start to go wrong. There’s a theft. Then an accident. Then a mysterious note, pinned to her tent: there’s a murderer on the mountain.

The higher they get, the more dangerous the climb becomes, and the more they need to trust one another.

And that’s when Cecily finds the first body . . .

#R3COMM3ND3D2021 The After Show Party #BookBlogger #Author #Bookstagram #writingcommunity #bookcommunity #Publishedin2021 #MustReadBooks #booktwt #WhatToRead #damppebbles #BookRecommendations #amreading #amreviewing

Hello bookish friends and welcome to the social highlight of the year (🤔), the #R3COMM3ND3D2021 after show party! The annual-ish recap of everything #R3COMM3ND3D where we get to gaze fondly upon the books that were chosen by forty-eight brilliant bookish types (plus me) and announce the winner or…*audible gasp*…winners!

Of course, if you’re new to the blog you may be wondering what #R3COMM3ND3D is, so allow me to explain. It’s about sharing the book love. It’s a chance for authors, book bloggers and bookstagrammers to shout about three (yes, *only* three) books they love. They can be written by any author, in any genre and published in any way (traditionally, indie press or self-published). But there is a catch. All three books must have been published in 2021.

Waaaaaay back at the start of November book blogger Nicki of Nicki’s Life of Crime kicked things off for us with three cracking recommendations. By the time the feature finished on 23rd December fifty-three days had passed and forty-eight brilliant bookish folk (plus me) had recommended the grand total of 130 books. One hundred and thirty book recommendations is pretty epic, right? And all just in time for Christmas 🎅

So, let’s gaze upon the beautiful #R3COMM3ND3D2021 covers in all their splendiferous glory. Aren’t they gorgeous?!

A thing of beauty, I’m sure you’ll agree! If you took part in #R3COMM3ND3D2021 and the book(s) you chose aren’t here then please get in touch.

But let’s talk winners and find out what the most #R3COMM3ND3D book, or books, of 2021 were. There were seven books with two votes each. They were…

Two books received three votes each…

 

And two books received four votes each making them joint winners of #R3COMM3ND3D2021…

Huge congratulations to Will Dean (Hodder & Stoughton) and Catriona Ward (Viper Books) for having the most #R3COMM3ND3D books of the year 🎉 One of these beauties I’ve read, the other is going straight to the top of the reading pile. Have you read either of these cracking novels? What about the other top books of the year? How many do you have on your TBR?

The biggest of thanks to all of the book bloggers, bookstagrammers and authors who took part in #R3COMM3ND3D2021 and whittled their favourite reads down to three (an impossible task, I know!). Thank you for all of the likes, retweets, shares and comments – every single one is always appreciated.

#R3COMM3ND3D may be taking a short break next year (I’m undecided at the moment – I honestly can’t imagine not running it and get a little panicky when I think about it!) but hopefully it won’t be for long if it does. Enormous thanks again for the support this year, book community. You absolutely rock!

#BookReview: The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks #TheRecoveryofRoseGold #damppebbles

“Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years.

Turned out her mother was a really good liar.

After five years in prison, Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with the daughter who testified against her – and care for her new infant grandson.

When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend. And she has waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

But has Patty truly forgotten their past?

And is Rose Gold really able to forgive?

A gripping and electrifying tale that will make you question your allegiances until the very end . . .”

Hello and a very Happy New Year! Goodbye 2021, you were a bit pants. Hello 2022, you’d better have some good books in store for us! No pressure but the brilliant books published last year were pretty much the only highlight in a damp squib of a year. Am I right? Anyhow, I digress… I hope the year ahead holds good things for you and yours, plus a myriad of cracking reads 🥂

Today I am delighted to share my review of The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. The Recovery of Rose Gold was published by Penguin Books on 18th February 2021 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Recovery of Rose Gold but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Michael Joseph for sending me a proof.

Dang, this book was blimmin’ good! I’ve been wanting to read it for ages. I remember it being very popular with fellow bloggers and reviewers when it was first published in hardcover, but for some strange reason, it’s taken me until now to pick it up. Which was a huge mistake on my part. HUGE. I loved it and I only wish I’d read it sooner.

Patty has served her time and is being released from prison. She has high hopes for the future as her daughter, Rose Gold Watts, has willingly agreed to collect her from the gates. She always knew Rose Gold didn’t mean what she said in court. Patty was only trying to look after her, like any mother would! Patty’s plan is to convince Rose Gold to allow her move in so she can get acquainted with her brand new grandson, make sure Rose Gold is looking after him properly and become an integral part of their little family. Rose Gold needs her mama, she always has. And what the courts accused Patty of, Rose Gold has forgiven her for all of that. Hasn’t she….?

The Recovery of Rose Gold is an astonishing debut. I never really felt as though I could trust any of the characters: their recollections of the past, nor what the future held. There are things bubbling beneath the surface here and the author’s ability to keep the reader constantly wondering, asking questions, shows what a superb writer Wrobel is. Has Rose Gold forgiven Patty for the years of abuse? Does Patty still truly believe everything she did for her daughter was for Rose Gold’s own good?

The story is told in two parts. Patty narrates the present day chapters and the more I read of her perspective, the more I despised her. Rose Gold narrates the ‘past’ sections which, throughout the book, work their way to the present day. The reader gets to see what Patty put Rose Gold through, the abuse disguised as love. It’s a difficult read, there’s no doubt about that. Dark themes, flawed characters, obsession by the bucket load, twisty and twisted. Bloody marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Recovery of Rose Gold is a tense, twisted read, and pretty much everything I love in a novel. The characters felt believably real, scarily so, and the story will stay with me for a long time to come. Very compelling and near impossible to put down. Addictive is an understatement for this one. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Recovery of Rose Gold. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 18th February 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Stephanie WrobelStephanie Wrobel grew up in Chicago but has been living in the UK for the last four years with her husband and her dog, Moose Barkwinkle. She has an MFA from Emerson College and has had short fiction published in Bellevue Literary Review. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a creative copywriter at various advertising agencies. The Recovery of Rose Gold is her first novel.

The damppebbles Top Ten(ish!) of 2021 #amreading #amreviewing #amblogging #Bestof2021 #TopReadsof2021 #BookRecommendations #bookblogger #BookTwitter #damppebbles

Hello bookish friends, I’ve missed you! After posting every day for fifty-three days straight, when you don’t post, it feels a little…odd. Like you’ve forgotten to do something really, REALLY important! Anyway, it’s only been a week and a smidge since I last officially posted and I have lots of reviews coming your way starting the first week of January so we’ll be back in the swing of things soon.

Welcome to my final post of 2021, my top ten(ish!) books of the year. ‘Ish’ because, as in previous years, I hope you can’t count 😂. It’s been a cracking year for books and in particular, debuts. Time and time again, the debut authors have absolutely hit it out of the park and I’m excited about what 2022’s debut authors have to offer. No pressure though, lol!

So without further ado and in no particular order (actually, tell a lie, they’re in the order I read them starting with the earliest!), here are my top ten(ish!) books of the year…

Shiver by Allie Reynolds
I loved Shiver. The dangerous and atmospheric setting of the Alps ensured I was hooked from the very start. I wanted to return again and again to my copy of the book. When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about the story. Trying to work out how things were going to turn out, picturing the snow covered mountains and the pure terror of being trapped in such a hostile, unforgiving environment. Absolutely flipping marvellous. I lived and breathed Shiver.
My Review of Shiver

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
I’ve never read such a tense, compelling novel before. My heart was in my mouth from the very start and it stayed there throughout. I was living the story alongside the characters, like a movie playing in my mind. And the terror felt real. It was insane how deeply this book burrowed its way into my being. It was such an intense, emotional experience.
My Review of Three Hours

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey
From the opening chapters this book had a hold over me and I savoured every moment I spent with it. It’s such a beautifully written piece of fiction which managed to completely entrance me. Tall Bones is a haunting, beautiful but ultimately dark read which I read with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. An astonishing debut.
My Review of Tall Bones

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird
Oh.My.Goodness! This book is incredible. Absolutely superb and frighteningly real. The End of Men is a must read for all. Intelligent, poignant, devastating and totally absorbing. The true definition a page turner. I couldn’t put this book down as I was desperate to find out what revelation the author was going to share with me next.
My Review of The End of Men

The Hunger by Alma Katsu
Like nothing else I have read before. I found The Hunger to be a completely engrossing and spell-binding read which I heartily recommend to horror fans. The ending was perfect and took my breath away. I adored this book. Something truly special which has left its mark on me.
My Review of The Hunger

Falling by T.J. Newman
Falling is a superb debut. Tense, scarily real and absolutely relentless. The book starts with a bang. Highly, highly entertaining. I was completely captivated from that blisteringly good start to the heart-stopping, ‘read behind your hands’ end. Shedloads of suspense, a fast and pacey plot and a cast of characters I felt fully invested in. Sublime!
My Review of Falling

The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker
I devoured The First Day of Spring. When I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about the characters. Chrissie broke my heart time and time again. The author’s writing is immersive and totally believable which made Chrissie, Julia and Molly come to life before my very eyes. I don’t think I’ll be able or willing to forget The First Day of Spring. Haunting, compelling and utterly devastating.
My Review of The First Day of Spring

The Beach House by Beverley Jones
The Beach House is a gripping tale of secrets, lies and obsession and I gobbled it up in a couple of short sittings. I found Grace, as the book’s lead character, to be intriguing and utterly captivating. I think I’m a little bit in love 😳. As the story unfolds, the tension ramps up with a dramatic and thrilling denouement which I thought was a perfect conclusion to Grace’s story.
My Review of The Beach House

Survive the Night by Riley Sager
I loved Survive the Night. Everything about it was perfection on a page. The twists are weaved into the story masterfully. There are lots of other really clever little details thrown into the story to keep you gripped and turning the pages. Sager has excelled himself. I feel as though I lived this book alongside the characters. Absolutely bloody marvellous! Tense, all absorbing and utterly captivating.
My Review of Survive the Night

Good Neighbours by Sarah Langan
Good Neighbours is a deliciously dark, visceral tale of suburbia which I devoured with utter glee. It’s so beautifully sinister, so packed full of menace, it was impossible to tear myself away from it. I was fully immersed in the drama of Maple Street. The ending was perfect. The whole darn book was pretty perfect.
My Review of Good Neighbours

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing
I adored spending time with Downing’s characters, I could happily have read another 500 pages of Teddy’s nefarious goings on (and it’s not a short book at 400 pages for the hardcover!). For Your Own Good was a dark and devious joy to read. Totally absorbing, exactly the type of book I love to lose myself in. I will be shouting about this one for a long time to come.
My Review of For Your Own Good

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi
Emotional, edgy and dark. It ticked so many boxes for me and I struggled to be parted from it, needing to find out how things would turn out for Aaron. As for the ending, it blew my mind and made a book I was really enjoying hit new heady heights. A memorable story the reader can truly invest in. Perfectly pitched and expertly written.
My Review of Come With Me

So there you have it. Lashings and lashings of gorgeousness in one glorious post (even if I do say so myself 🤣). It’s a darn fine looking bunch of books, I think you’ll agree. Ten (😳) truly amazing books which you should do everything in your power to get hold of. I said it earlier but I’ll say it again, the debuts have absolutely stolen the show this year. I think five of my, ahem, ten are debuts which is incredible, right? The future for us booklovers is looking very bright indeed.

Have a peaceful and safe New Year, bookish lovelies, and I will see you on the other side. I’ll be sharing my #R3COMM3ND3D2021 After-Show Party post in January which will feature all 130 books chosen, along with the winner (OR winners!), so keep an eye out for that. Thank you for your support through a second difficult year. You are AMAZING! Stay safe, stay bookish and keep reading. Lots of love, Emma @damppebbles x

Fancy purchasing one of the books on my top ten(ish!) of the year? Then please check out my bookshop.org affiliate page (please note, the following link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): damppebbles bookshop.org shop

WWW Wednesday | 29th December 2021 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
It’s One Thing to Lose Your Life
It’s Another to Lose Your Soul

When climber Nick Grevers is brought down from the mountains after a terrible accident he has lost his looks, his hopes and his climbing companion. His account of what happened on the forbidden peak of the Maudit is garbled, almost hallucinogenic. Soon it becomes apparent more than his shattered body has returned: those that treat his disfigured face begin experiencing extraordinary and disturbing psychic events that suggest that Nick has unleashed some ancient and primal menace on his ill-fated expedition.

Nick’s partner Sam Avery has a terrible choice to make. He fell in love with Nick’s youth, vitality and beauty. Now these are gone and all that is left is a haunted mummy-worse, a glimpse beneath the bandages can literally send a person insane.

Sam must decide: either to flee to America, or to take Nick on a journey back to the mountains, the very source of the curse, the little Alpine Village of Grimnetz, its soul-possesed Birds of Death and it legends of human sacrifice and, ultimately, its haunted mountain, the Maudit.

Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a Hugo Award Winner and has been hailed as the future of speculative fiction in Europe. His work combines a unique blend of popular culture and fairy-tale myth that is utterly unique. Echo follows his sensational debut English language novel, HEX.

What did you recently finish reading?

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield
Mind games. Murder. Mayhem. How far would you go to survive the night?

Blackmail lures sixteen-year-old Ava to the derelict carnival on Portgrave Pier.

She is one of ten teenagers, all with secrets they intend to protect whatever the cost.

When fog and magic swallow the pier, the group find themselves cut off from the real world and from their morals.

As the teenagers turn on each other, Ava will have to face up to the secret that brought her to the pier and decide how far she’s willing to go to survive.

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Perfect Escape Leah Konen
When her husband Harry walks out after just six months, a girls’ weekend away with two friends seems like just what Sam needs.

But they aren’t even halfway to their destination when things start to go wrong: car trouble that just happens to leave them stranded in the town where Harry lives.

And that’s only the beginning.

Because there are three things Sam doesn’t yet know:

One of her friends is lying about what happened.
One is lying about who she is.
And one of them will never make it home . . .