#BookReview: Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker @ViperBooks #CallMeMummy #damppebbles

“THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…

CALL ME MUMMY. IT’LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the rather brilliant Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker with you. Call Me Mummy is published by Viper Books today (that’s Thursday 25th February 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Call Me Mummy but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Viper Books for sending me an early copy of the book.

Blimey. This book is an absolute corker! One of those brilliant pieces of fiction which worms its way under your skin and consumes your every waking moment. When I wasn’t immersing myself in Kim and Mummy’s devastating worlds (devastating for different reasons), I was thinking about the characters and pondering on what dastardly turn the author would take me – the reader – on next. Wowsers, what a debut!

Mummy has everything she has ever desired. Everything apart from one thing….a child of her own. When out shopping one day in the run up to Christmas, Mummy sees 5-year-old Tonya and strikes up a nervous conversation with the child. Heavily pregnant Kim, Tonya’s mother, is oblivious and is more concerned with her phone then the safety and wellbeing of her eldest child. So Mummy takes Tonya and runs. What Mummy doesn’t bargain for is that Tonya is as brash and as loud mouthed as her scummy mother and despite her best efforts, Tonya refuses point blank to become the perfect daughter. No matter how brutal the punishments she metes out or how hard Mummy tries to help Tonya. All the while, Kim is gradually falling apart. Demonised by the press and the public, subjected to mass vitriol on social media. And despite everything Mummy has done, it’s Kim who is the most hated woman in Britain…

Utterly captivating. I loved Call Me Mummy. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you’ll know I love my psychological fiction character driven and oh boy, this a perfect example of how to achieve that. You don’t get very many characters to like or admire in this book but they’ll definitely provoke a reaction and for me, that’s the most important thing. Mummy is a complicated woman who has a dark heart, although I think she would deny that vehemently – wanting to appear as perfection personified to everyone looking in. She’s all kinds of crazy and I loved to hate her. She made me furious with her treatment of Tonya, with her repeated references to religion and to her pursuit of perfection. And I loved every single moment I spent in her deluded company. What a character!

The blurb draws similarities between Mummy and Kim and I found myself making connections between the two woman as the story progressed. I thought the way the book highlights how we all like to ‘judge a book by its cover’ (not this book, obviously – the cover is fabulous!) was cleverly done as, I admit it, I didn’t like Kim at all to start with. But she grew on me. I can’t say I liked her by the end of the book and some of her actions and reactions made me feel quite uncomfortable, but I could *sort of* see where she was coming from. I guess what I’m trying to saying is that despite not agreeing with the things she did, I could understand her to some extent.

As for Tonya, she broke my heart. Even when she was swearing at Mummy (which made me laugh more than once) she was by far my favourite character in the book. What a feisty, courageous kid. Even if Mummy didn’t think she was perfect, I did. The reader gets to see things from several points of view, the main three being Mummy, Kim and Tonya. Tonya’s chapters sometimes made me giggle but more often than not, they almost broke me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Call Me Mummy is a superb debut and I’m giddy with excitement to see what Baker publishes next. This book is the definition of a page-turner and I loved every minute I spent in Mummy’s dark and twisted world. If you’re looking for a compelling, all-absorbing read then make it Call Me Mummy. You won’t regret it and you can thank me later! I couldn’t put this book down, nor did I want to. Hypnotising, deliciously intense and totally unnerving. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Call Me Mummy. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker was published in the UK by Viper Books on 25th February 2021 and is available in hardcover, 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 | the damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.

Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she’s not stolen a child – so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

WWW Wednesday | 24th February 2021 #WWWWednesday #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 for others to look at. 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 Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…

What did you recently finish reading?

Time is Running Out by Michael Wood

You’re a survivor, aren’t you, Matilda? But what’s the point in surviving when everyone around you is dead?

When DCI Matilda Darke receives a mysterious telephone call, she immediately dismisses the threat. Afterall the Homicide and Major Enquiries team are a regular target for prank calls.
But ignoring this warning might soon be the biggest regret of Matilda Darke’s life.

A lone gunman is on a deadly rampage around Sheffield, leaving a bloody trail in his wake. Taking his shots with a sickening precision, he’s about to leave his mark on the world and change Matilda and her team’s lives forever.

The next chilling instalment in the DCI Matilda Darke thriller series, perfect for fans of Patricia Gibney and Angela Marsons.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson

After a whirlwind, fairytale romance, Abigail Baskin marries freshly-minted Silicon Valley millionaire Bruce Lamb.

For their honeymoon, he whisks her away to an exclusive retreat at a friend’s resort off the Maine coast on Heart Pond Island. But once there, Abigail’s perfect new life threatens to crash down around her as she recognises one of their fellow guests as the good looking, charismatic stranger who weeks earlier had seduced her at her own Bachelorette party…

#BookReview: Girl A by Abigail Dean @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @1stMondayCrime #GirlA #FirstMondayCrime #damppebbles

Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’

Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.

Beautifully written and incredibly powerful, Girl A is a story of redemption, of horror, and of love.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of the most talked about books of 2021 so far – Girl A by Abigail Dean. Girl A was published by HarperCollins on 21st January 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free copy of Girl A but that has in no way influenced my review.

Abigail Dean is one of the authors appearing at March’s First Monday event over on Facebook (the first gathering – although online – for 2021!). Read on to find out more and how you can get involved!

Girl A is a hugely popular book, and rightly so. It is exquisitely written, emotional and pulls the reader into the story of the Gracie children. It’s a book I was keen to read following a couple of really enticing blog reviews, and I’m so glad I did.

Lex Gracie is a survivor. A survivor of child abuse. She and her six siblings are the infamous Gracie children who were discovered in a house of horrors near Manchester. Malnourished, abandoned and neglected by their cruel, deluded parents. But Lex escaped and ran for help. And now she’s Girl A – her identity hidden from the press and the watching world. Her life picked apart and put back together again, along with the lives of her siblings. Years later, following the death of her mother, Lex is made executor of her estate and finally has to confront her past and the house which became her prison. The dream, with her sister Evie, is to turn the house of horrors into a community centre. But to do that Lex must visit each of her siblings and get them to sign on the dotted line. Can Lex relive her traumatic past to make a positive change for her future…

Lex is such a complicated character but I really enjoyed spending time with her. Despite numerous sessions with a psychologist, she still bears the painful scars of her traumatic past. And who could blame her?! Her distance from her siblings, except Evie, aides her continual healing. The reader watches on as she is no longer able to avoid the difficult confrontations she’s managed to distance herself from for years. For me, the journey with Lex, spending time with her and discovering what made her tick, was the highlight of Girl A.

The story is told in the past – from the early days when life was fairly quiet for the small Gracie family, all the way through to Lex’s brave escape – and the present, with an adult Lex meeting with her siblings after so many years and working out how to make them agree to the community centre. Each sibling bears their own scars, their own allegiance to a brother or sister who helped soften the horror they were suffering at the time. The dynamics of the family are very intriguing and the reader is drawn into the story with ease. There’s always a question mark over what really happened during the children’s imprisonment; those overheard conversations from another room, the bangs and crashes and the sudden, threatening silences.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Girl A is an emotional and compelling read which I think true crime fans will particularly enjoy. It’s not a book of twists and turns (although I will say that I was able to work out one of the major twists a smidge before it was revealed) but a well-drawn and considered exploration of a trauma survivor’s life. Defined forever by another person’s twisted ways. An exciting debut novel from a writer to watch. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free copy of Girl A. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Girl A by Abigail Dean was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 21st January 2021 and is available in hardcover, 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 |  WaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

First Monday Crime
Abigail Dean will be joining the panel for March’s First Monday Facebook event on Monday 1st March 2021. Abigail will be appearing alongside Nadine Matheson (author of The Jigsaw Man), Tim Glister (author of Red Corona), Femi Kayode (author of Lightseekers) and asking the questions will be Leye Adenle. The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st March via the First Monday Facebook page.

Abigail Dean was born in Manchester, and grew up in the Peak District. She graduated from Cambridge with a Double First in English. Formerly a Waterstones bookseller, she spent five years as a lawyer in London, and took summer 2018 off to work on her debut novel, Girl A, ahead of her thirtieth birthday. She now works as a lawyer for Google, and is currently writing her second novel, The Conspiracies.

Girl A sold in the UK after a 9-way auction, and also sold at auction in the US. The novel has since been acquired in 27 other territories, and television/film rights have sold to Sony. Johan Renck, director of Chernobyl, is attached to work on the television adaptation of Girl A.

Abigail has always loved reading, writing, and talking about books. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AbigailSDean.

#BookReview: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse @TransworldBooks #TheSanatorium #damppebbles

EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse. The Sanatorium is published in the UK today (that’s Thursday 18th February 2021) by Bantam Press and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Sanatorium but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Sanatorium was impossible to resist! That intriguing title, the striking, atmospheric cover, the enticing blurb. It screamed my name so I had to read it. This is the second book I’ve read set in the Alps in the space of a month but it gave me a whole different set of chills.

Detective Elin Warner and her boyfriend are staying at an isolated boutique hotel in the Swiss Alps. The hotel itself has an unnerving history, having started its life as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. Her estranged brother has surprisingly invited Elin to his engagement party. He’s marrying a childhood friend of hers, the glamorous Laure. Elin is happy to leave the UK for a while as, following her last case, something happened which made her doubt her future in the police force. But on arrival, nervous Elin is instantly put on edge even more by the imposing setting. The pressing snow storm doesn’t help her feel any safer. The relationship between Elin and her brother, Isaac, is tense and a missed dinner invitation causes more upset. But the following morning, Isaac reports Laure missing. The snow storm and the risk of avalanches cuts off all access to the hotel as the search for Laure continues. They’re on their own. Elin needs to step up and take control of the situation. Which, despite feeling hesitant, she feels ready to do. Until they discover the body…

Poor Elin. From the start of The Sanatorium she’s on the edge and that doesn’t really change very much as the story progresses. She’s a troubled woman who carries the tragic death of her brother at the age of 8 in her heart and her mind. The real reason for her decision to reconnect with her estranged other brother becomes very clear to the reader. She wants the truth and the only person who can give it to her is Isaac. Her grief has moulded and shaped her into the woman she is today. Elin is an interesting character who at times I really liked and admired, at other times I wanted to sit her down and ask her what the fluff she was doing!

The mystery aspect of The Sanatorium was interesting and it kept me turning the pages. I think the time has come to admit that perhaps I’ve read too many crime books as I could guess a couple of plot points which, disappointingly, turned out to be accurate. There weren’t any big surprises for me in this novel but that’s my own personal experience and I wouldn’t let that put you off.

I adored the setting. I love isolated, claustrophobic settings in novels and this one is done particularly well. The snowy mountains feel as though they’re pressing in on the hotel and the unpredictability of the avalanches was really wonderful. Picturing the icy scenes in my mind gave me goosebumps! Marvellous stuff.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend The Sanatorium to anyone who enjoys a locked-room mystery with a bit of an icy twist. The plot moves at a steady pace and keeps the reader turning the pages. There was something about the ending which didn’t quite work for me. I can’t really go into any detail as I would be revealing too much and that wouldn’t be fair but I did enjoy reading The Sanatorium and I would gladly read more from this author. It’s a chilling, atmospheric mystery which I was happy to lose myself in. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Sanatorium. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse was published in the UK by Bantam Press on Thursday 18th February 2021 and is available in hardcover, 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 | the damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.

WWW Wednesday | 17th February 2021 #WWWWednesday #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 for others to look at. 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?

In a Deep Dark Wood by Tina Pritchard

What she saw in the wood would change her life forever.

Walking in the wood one day, Fran witnesses the horrifying murder of local teen, Tyler. She tells the police exactly what she saw, but their investigation doesn’t seem to make much headway.

Fran tries to settle back into a normal life, but is tormented by guilt – was there something she could have done to save the boy? Fran can’t let it go and finds herself drawn to Tyler’s grieving mother, Mel, both finding some strange connection through this shared trauma.

Then someone launches a terrifying campaign of intimidation against Fran and her husband, Laurie. Could it be the killers? Are they letting her know she had better be careful what she says? Who she sees? And why is Mel acting so strangely? Does she know more about her son’s death than she is saying?

Fran can’t help herself – she needs to know the truth. But when she begins to dig, she uncovers the terrible secret of the deep, dark wood – a secret that will change her life forever.

In a Deep Dark Wood – a stunning psychological thriller with a nerve-shredding climax. Perfect for fans of K. L. Slater, Sarah A. Denzil and Miranda Rijks.

[DP: If you’re a book blogger and would like to read this book for the blog tour, please get in touch. I still have a couple of stops available!]

What did you recently finish reading?

The Girl in the Missing Poster by Barbara Copperthwaite

MISSING – Have you seen this girl? Nineteen-year-old Leila Hawkins was last seen on 24 June, 1994, when she left her parents’ anniversary party early and ran into the stormy night wearing her twin sister Stella’s long red coat. She was never seen again.

Stella holds the missing poster flat against the tree trunk and presses to make sure it’s secure. She tries not to look at the photograph on it. At the features so similar to hers. This time every year she decorates the small seaside town they grew up in with pictures of her beautiful missing twin. But after almost twenty-five years, is it even worth hoping someone will come forward?

The last thing Stella ever expects is a direct response from the person who took Leila. Wracked with guilt about the secret she’s been keeping since the night of the party, and completely alone in the world without the other half of her, Stella agrees to his strange request: private, intimate details of her life in return for answers.

But as the true events of the night of the party play out before her, Stella feels closer to Leila than she ever dreamed she’d be again – too close. Will it be too late before she realises she’s walked right into a deadly trap? Will she suffer the same fate as her sister?

From the bestselling author of The Perfect Friend, this absolutely gripping psychological thriller will keep you up all night and leave you sleeping with the light on. If you loved Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and The Wife Between Us this book is for you!

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…

#BookReview: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis @PenguinUKBooks #HarrowLake #damppebbles

“Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot.

The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking Lola’s every move.

The more she discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her…”

Hello and welcome to a brand new day on damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the creepy Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis. Harrow Lake was published by Penguin in paperback, audio and digital formats on 9th July 2020. This book was impossible to resist so I treated myself to a copy and I’m so glad I did (check out the glorious yellow sprayed edges!).

Lola Nox lives in the shadow of her famous horror filmmaker father, Nolan, and her absent movie star mother, Lorelei. After a devastating event at home she’s sent to Harrow Lake, the small town her mother grew up in, to stay with her grandmother. A grandmother she’s never met before. In a town which featured in her father’s most famous film, Nightjar, the film which made Lorelei a star. On arrival she discovers everyone in Harrow Lake is obsessed with her mother and Nightjar. To the point where they hold a regular festival and parade for the tourists. There’s literally no escape! But Harrow Lake has its own secrets and as Lola starts to dig deeper, she find out about the missing girls. Who – or what – is responsible for their disappearance? And will Lola be next…?

Harrow Lake is a compulsive and chilling YA horror novel which sent shivers down my spine. It’s a modern-day take on an 80s horror movie and I enjoyed every single moment of it. Not only is Harrow Lake a creep-fest but to ratchet things up a notch it has its own town legend – Mister Jitters. The residents live in fear and carry out macabre practices such as leaving their teeth tied to the bone tree to stop Mister Jitters from wanting to get a taste of their bones (😱). It’s the stuff nightmares are made of and Ellis has told such a vivid tale that you feel at times like you’re actually living the horror alongside Lola.

I couldn’t get enough of the setting nor the characters who all stand tall. Lola was difficult to like initially but you grow to like and admire her. I was with her every step of the way (despite wishing I wasn’t at times). Lola’s grandmother made me feel uncomfortable from the first meet. She’s a closed-off, odd woman who has plenty of devastating secrets of her own. There are some pretty unlikeable, well-written characters in Harrow Lake and their strange behaviour and peculiar ways really kept me on my toes.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Harrow Lake is a very immersive, vivid tale and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the small town feel of the story, the claustrophobia and the heaps of unease the author has woven into the book. It’s a compelling YA novel which I heartily recommend to young and *erm* slightly older horror fans. I would make sure you pick up a copy soon otherwise Mister Jitters may come-a-knocking… Recommended.

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis was published in the UK by Penguin on 9th July 2020 and is available in 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): | bookshop.orgamazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kat EllisKat Ellis is the author of YA novels HARROW LAKE, PURGE, BLACKFIN SKY, and BREAKER, and the novella THE TWINS OF BLACKFIN in the THREE STRIKES collection. Her next book, BURDEN FALLS, will be published in the summer of 2021.

You’ll usually find Kat up to no good on Twitter, trekking through ruins and cemeteries with her camera, or watching scary films with her husband.

WWW Wednesday | 10th February 2021 #WWWWednesday #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 for others to look at. 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?

Girl A by Abigail Dean

‘Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’

Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.

Beautifully written and incredibly powerful, Girl A is a story of redemption, of horror, and of love.

What did you recently finish reading?

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege.

Pupils and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news.

In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Girl in the Missing Poster by Barbara Copperthwaite

MISSING – Have you seen this girl? Nineteen-year-old Leila Hawkins was last seen on 24 June, 1994, when she left her parents’ anniversary party early and ran into the stormy night wearing her twin sister Stella’s long red coat. She was never seen again.

Stella holds the missing poster flat against the tree trunk and presses to make sure it’s secure. She tries not to look at the photograph on it. At the features so similar to hers. This time every year she decorates the small seaside town they grew up in with pictures of her beautiful missing twin. But after almost twenty-five years, is it even worth hoping someone will come forward?

The last thing Stella ever expects is a direct response from the person who took Leila. Wracked with guilt about the secret she’s been keeping since the night of the party, and completely alone in the world without the other half of her, Stella agrees to his strange request: private, intimate details of her life in return for answers.

But as the true events of the night of the party play out before her, Stella feels closer to Leila than she ever dreamed she’d be again – too close. Will it be too late before she realises she’s walked right into a deadly trap? Will she suffer the same fate as her sister?

From the bestselling author of The Perfect Friend, this absolutely gripping psychological thriller will keep you up all night and leave you sleeping with the light on. If you loved Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and The Wife Between Us this book is for you!

#BookReview: Pine by Francine Toon @DoubledayUK #Pine #damppebbles

“They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men.

Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.

In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago.

Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.

In the shadow of the Highland forest, Francine Toon captures the wildness of rural childhood and the intensity of small-town claustrophobia. In a place that can feel like the edge of the word, she unites the chill of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.”

Welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Pine by Francine Toon. Pine was published by Doubleday in all formats on 1st October 2020. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Pine but that has in no way influenced my review.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year (and let’s face it, for many of us that would probably have been preferable!) then chances are you’ve seen Pine mentioned before. It’s a huge book. A prize-winning novel, shortlisted for many prestigious crime fiction awards. And rightly so. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like Pine before.

Lauren and her father are driving home one night when a mysterious, unresponsive figure steps out into the road. They bundle her into their truck, take her home to safety and give her a good meal. In the morning, the woman has gone. But only Lauren can remember what happened the night before. Odd occurrences like this aren’t all that unusual in the small town on the outskirts of the pine forest in the Scottish highlands though. Strange things sometimes happen, people go missing without a trace…

I really felt for Lauren who is such a beautifully written character. Her innocence and her maturity broke my heart in equal measure. She really got under my skin and I was repeatedly drawn back to the book to see what was going to happen next. I willed for her to have a happy ending. You’ll have to pick up a copy of the book yourself to see if she does.

For a debut, this is quite an astonishing book. The prose is stunning and the setting is creepy and atmospheric, almost haunting. I would go as far as saying it is a character in it’s own right. There’s a supernatural feel to Pine which had me on the edge of my seat. The author sprinkles unease over her story from start to finish and I loved how the building sense of the unknown drew me into the pages. I was hooked and with Lauren every step of the way.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Pine is a beautiful slow-burn gothic mystery. I’m a huge fan of claustrophobic small town settings and Toon has achieved something great here. It’s haunting and suspenseful, eerie and compelling. A tale of fractured relationships, grief and addiction. Of lives destroyed and of lives with just nowhere to go. As I said earlier, I’ve not read anything like this before and I don’t expect to read anything like it again. Recommended.

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

Pine by Francine Toon was published in the UK by Doubleday on 1st October 2020 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.orgthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Francine Toon grew up in Sutherland and Fife, Scotland. Her poetry, written as Francine Elena, has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Best British Poetry 2013 and 2015 anthologies (Salt) and Poetry London, among other places. Pine was longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award. She lives in London and works in publishing.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Subterfuge (A Tom Stone Detective Story #5) by Don Simkovich and Lon Casler Bixby (@DonSimkovich @LonBixby) @cobaltdinosaur #Subterfuge #damppebbles

“A wounded man, fiberglass wreckage, and mysterious blue barrels wash up on a secluded beach north of Los Angeles in Malibu, California.

Detective Tom Stone jumps into action in this gripping thriller novel and uncovers human trafficking as drug smugglers try a new trick.

The Ojos Negros cartel forms an uneasy alliance with LA mob boss Frank DeVito. Using hidden sea caves as drop-off points, the new syndicate maneuvers to expand their brutal drug empire, and guns down anyone who stands in their way.

Stone and his team trail the lone survivor, Luis Delgado, who longs to return home to Mexico but is trapped in a deadly game of subterfuge. He vows revenge on the evil men who have destroyed his life and countless others with their greed.

The Detectives race to find Delgado and bring down the cartel, before another innocent victim is killed.

Uncover narco-subs plying the seas with page-turning action—and hold on for an explosive ending.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles! Today I’ve handed the keys to the blog over to my guest reviewer, Ryan, who is going to share his thoughts on the fifth Tom Stone Detective Story – Subterfuge. Subterfuge was published on 6th November 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. Ryan chose to read and review a free digital copy of Subterfuge but that has in no way influenced his review.

Subterfuge is the first novel I have read by the team of Simkovich and Casler Bixby. It’s an intriguing story of smugglers, mafia style gangs and the police trying to stop them. When two cartels collide there is always friction and the creaky alliance made between the leader known as ‘Rabbit’ and De Vito’s gang stops this being the classic Cops vs Gangs, adding a third dimension for alliances and treachery.

One aspect of Subterfuge that shone through was the character of Luis Delgado. Delgado is the lone survivor from a failed drugs run. His life has been destroyed and he’s scared of going home in case the cartels find him. He becomes the unpredictable element in a story filled with drama. Casler Bixby and Simkovich have written a story that can be seen from 4 sides. The Cops (Stone and Sharpe) are a good pairing. Determined to get results even if it means using some friends in low places. De Vito’s cartel is a scary place to live – “serve well or die quickly” appears to be the unofficial motto. De Vito’s empire is growing with just one thorn in his side – the Ojo Negros Cartel. So when Rabbit from the Ojo Negros walks into De Vito’s stronghold and declares a partnership an uneasy truce starts to take place. The fourth and final view is from Delgado who finds himself in the middle of a situation he could never have imagined. A twisted character torn between revenge, staying alive and justice – which way will he turn?

Every time I opened this book I was desperate to see whether the characters would survive. Who would be gaining the upper hand and who would be taking a one way ticket on the next submarine smuggling drugs across the oceans. The authors do a wonderful job of making the readers feel empathy for some of the victims of the cartels. You want to protect them, you want them to win out, but you know they are up against all the odds and the chances of them being double crossed are high. The authors keep the action high throughout the book, luring the reader on for one more page in expert fashion.

Subterfuge is a recommended read for anyone looking for a thriller with plenty of action and strong characters. It will pull you in and keep you riveted until the final page. I’m sure there is more to come from the authors and I will be keeping my eyes peeled.

I chose to read and review a free copy of Subterfuge. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Subterfuge by Don Simkovich & Lon Casler Bixby was published in the UK by Carved in Stone Media on 6th November 2020 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.uk | amazon.com | the damppebbles bookshop.org shop | Goodreads |

Don returned to his love for writing fiction after years of writing and narrating a radio spot series, marketing copy, and handling the pressures of a wild and crazy family life.

Frequent calls to the local Sheriff’s office, plus the intensity of handling teen alcoholism and teen pregnancy pressed stories from his mind like Earth’s weighty layers turn shale into harvestable fuel.

Well, you get the picture.

Don has fine-tuned his craft writing romance to crime fiction and the recent Tom Stone detective stories.

He lives at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains with his family, two dogs, and anyone else who happens to drop by and live for a spell.

Lon is a published author in various genres: Fiction, Poetry, Humor, Photography, and Comic Books. He is also a professional award-winning photographer whose work has been featured in a wide variety of magazines, art & coffee table books, and has also been displayed in Art Galleries throughout the world.

Lon lives out of his photography studio in Burbank, California where he shares his living space with his wonderful, albeit spoiled, Silver Lab named Silver.

WWW Wednesday | 3rd February 2021 #WWWWednesday #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 for others to look at. 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?

Point of No Return (Peter Hatherall #3) by Diana J. Febry
Malicious pranks or a deadly obsession? Everyone knew the significance of the noose left hanging in the tree outside James Palmer’s home. A young man hung himself from the tree two years earlier. Someone is determined this time the guilty ones will pay. DCI Hatherall must unmask a master of disguise before everyone connected to the suicide is slaughtered.

What did you recently finish reading?

Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker
Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…

CALL ME MUMMY. IT’LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Either…

Hermit by S.R. White
After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just 12 hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .

Compulsive, atmospheric and stunningly accomplished, HERMIT introduces a thrilling new voice in Australian crime fiction, perfect for fans of Jane Harper’s THE DRY and Chris Hammer’s SCRUBLANDS.

OR…

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege.

Pupils and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news.

In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.

Please help me choose!