Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes *Blog Tour: Guest Post*

510uL5rtumL“Sarah Carpenter lives in an isolated farmhouse in North Yorkshire and for the first time, after the death of her husband some years ago and her children, Louis and Kitty, leaving for university, she’s living alone. But she doesn’t consider herself lonely. She has two dogs, a wide network of friends and the support of her best friend, Sophie.

When an old acquaintance, Aiden Beck, needs somewhere to stay for a while, Sarah’s cottage seems ideal; and renewing her relationship with Aiden gives her a reason to smile again. It’s supposed to be temporary, but not everyone is comfortable with the arrangement: her children are wary of his motives, and Will Brewer, an old friend of her son’s, seems to have taken it upon himself to check up on Sarah at every opportunity. Even Sophie has grown remote and distant.

After Sophie disappears, it’s clear she hasn’t been entirely honest with anyone, including Will, who seems more concerned for Sarah’s safety than anyone else. As the weather closes in, events take a dramatic turn and Kitty too goes missing. Suddenly Sarah finds herself in terrible danger, unsure of who she can still trust.

But she isn’t facing this alone; she has Aiden, and Aiden offers the protection that Sarah needs. Doesn’t he?”

I am thrilled to welcome you to the final stop on the Never Alone blog tour.  As a reader and a huge fan of psychological thrillers the name Elizabeth Haynes is one that makes you sit up and take note.  So when I heard Elizabeth had a new book coming out, I couldn’t WAIT to read it.  And read it I have.  Never Alone is a stunning novel; atmospheric, dark and a little bit naughty, definitely one not to miss!  My review will be up on damppebbles soon.  Today, however, I have something very special to share with you.  Today I have a guest post written by the lady herself.  Over to you Elizabeth…

Hello all, and firstly a massive thank you to Emma for allowing me to visit this beautiful blog with my ramblings! I’ve been thinking long and hard about what to write; it feels like a huge responsibility to be let loose on someone else’s page, rather like visiting a house and being invited to sleep in the master bedroom.

Like many people, I’ve written all my life. I remember writing what would now be described as Black Beauty fanfiction when I was about eight or nine; for the next several years my writing was based upon improving, reworking or otherwise fiddling about with things other people had written. My Guy magazine – remember that? I wrote my own version of those photo stories and shared them in the playground. I loved Ray Bradbury so for a while I was writing sci-fi, Americana style – stories of rockets and distant planets and the everyday, twisted. Then I discovered a prolific range of romance novels in the library – a little friskier than Mills and Boon – called Candlelight Ecstasy romances, and I wrote stories of passion in which the headstrong women protagonists appeared to fall into a kind of stupor at the crucial moment and needed a ‘firm hand’ to ‘tame’ them.

It’s all good practice, right? At the time I had no idea that what I was doing was learning my craft. I read widely, romance and crime and literary fiction – I read Jean Genet at about fourteen, with no real clue as to what was going on but recognising that the beauty of the words, even in translation, aroused intense emotion in me, and wishing I could write even a fraction as well.

As an adult my focus became crime. I collected second hand Agatha Christie paperbacks and from there found my favourite authors: Val McDermid, Minette Walters, John Harvey, Mo Hayder, Ruth Rendell and Nicci French, all idols of mine, and yet I continued to write romances that had no beginning or end, just extracts, because there seemed no point in continuing. Nobody was going to read it except me, after all.

It was only when I started working for the police as a civilian that I had an inkling that now, almost, I might attempt to write crime. I did not want to use any real-life cases or experiences but at least I had the frame of reference around which to build my story. I knew something of how the system worked, and as well as writing a compelling story I wanted to make sure that those – the vast majority of the public – who had no direct police contact, had some idea of what a hideously tough job it is.

Alongside my police procedural series featuring the Briarstone Major Crime team, I’ve always written psychological thrillers, and my new book Never Alone is one of these. It was inspired by some casual browsing on property websites, and finding a remote farmhouse on a hillside with a detached annexe gave me the entire plot. What’s it like, living there? When the snow comes, and it’s just you and the dogs? What if someone was living in the annexe, and you weren’t too sure they’d told you the truth about themselves?

I started out with the idea of writing about a woman of my own age, Sarah Carpenter, who finds herself in that situation familiar to many – being on her own for the first time in her life because her children have left home. I thought ‘empty nest’ syndrome would be an intriguing premise to consider, but as is often the case, the book took off in another direction entirely and Sarah ended up not being very alone at all.

I hope you enjoy reading the book. Please do let me know what you think of it; I love hearing from readers and I do read reviews and appreciate feedback. It may be thirty years since my feverish playground romance serials but I’m still very much learning my craft.

Elizabeth Haynes

It’s been a pleasure to have you visit damppebbles today Elizabeth and thank you for your fascinating post.

Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes was published in the UK by Myriad Editions in eBook on 28th July 2016.  The paperback will be published on 6th October 2016 | | | Waterstones | Goodreads | Myriad Editions |

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elizabeth haynes mlibElizabeth Haynes is a former police intelligence analyst who lives in Norfolk with her husband and son. Her first novel, Into the Darkest Corner, was Amazon’s Best Book of the Year 2011 and is a New York Times bestseller. It has been published in thirty-seven countries. Her second novel, Revenge of the Tide, was published by Myriad in 2012 and her third, Human Remains, was published in 2013. She is also the author of two police procedural crime novels, Under a Silent Moon and Behind Closed Doors (Sphere).  Connect with Elizabeth Haynes via Twitter @Elizjhaynes

Never Alone blog tour


Guest Post: Barbara Copperthwaite (author of Invisible & Flowers For The Dead) #damppebblesTakeOver

Welcome to a #damppebblesTakeOver post featuring the incredibly talented Barbara Copperthwaite.  I am a huge fan of Barbara’s Flowers For The Dead, HUGE!  If you click here you can read my review.  Let’s just say, I loved it and gave it a very deserving five stars.

Have you read Flowers For The Dead? You haven’t?  You’re missing out!  Here’s the blurb of this truly superb book:

flowers for the dead kindle format 04“ADAM WILL DO ANYTHING TO MAKE YOU HAPPY. EVEN IF IT KILLS YOU.

Adam Bourne is a serial killer who thinks he is a saviour. When he murders his victims and cuts off the women’s lips, he believes he has done it to make them happy. How did he become warped from the sensitive four-year-old who adored his gran and the fairy tales she read to him? What turned him into a monster who stalks his victims? And what is he trying to say with the bouquets he sends? When he meets Laura Weir, Adam weaves a fairy tale romance around them. A tale she has no idea she is part of. As he hatches his twisted plan for their fairy story ending, can anyone stop him before he creates the ultimate sacrifice to love?”

I’m pleased to say that I have Barbara’s debut crime novel, Invisible, on my TBR which I am very excited about reading.  My review will, of course, be uploaded to damppebbles.

Barbara has written a superb guest post for us today.  Over to you Barbara..

The thrill of the kill in our own homes

Domestic noir isn’t a new genre, but it’s certainly one that seems more popular than it has ever been before. Gone Girl, The Girl On The Train, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Before I Go To Sleep…some of the biggest books of the last few years have featured run-of-the-mill, ordinary, every day settings that we can all relate to.

Your home should be the one place in the world where you feel safe. When it isn’t, where can you turn? What would you do? How would you cope? This is what domestic noir explores, whether the trouble is caused by a neighbour, a partner, or even a child. At the heart of all of the novels seems to lie the question: how well do ever really know anyone? Even ourselves?

Of course, the thriller in a domestic setting is nothing new (think Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, or Charlotte Bronte’s Jayne Eyre) but it is certainly far more common lately. Not so very long ago, thrillers tended to revolve more around villainous types who were far removed from our world. Readers could sit in the comfort of their armchairs and know that nothing like that could ever happen to them. Even the style of writing has changed. Books were almost always (though not exclusively) told in third person. Now they are more often than not in first person, making the action seem even closer, creating that claustrophobic link as you know the narrator’s every thought and feeling, and are right there alongside them as they experience the horror of their life unwinding.

So what is it that attracts readers to the thrill of danger in their own homes? Especially given that most writers and readers of the genre are women?

Perhaps it is the fact that women are all too aware that the home can be the scariest place – with two women killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner, and domestic violence in general affecting one in four women (and one in six men). Domestic noir reflects reality for some people. As a journalist who has interviewed countless ordinary people who have found themselves in extraordinary situations, I can confirm that truth is stranger than fiction; that danger and evil can easily lurk behind the façade of normality.

Perhaps it is because women tend to enjoy exploring emotions more than men – even uncomfortable ones. Apparently women’s brains are more wired to understand and emote with emotions than male brains. Domestic noir is more than simply tales of murder and mayhem in the home, it is often an emotional exploration of the impact of those actions. As we read about someone else’s world unravelling, we cannot help but picture ourselves in that situation and explore how we would react. It’s probably no coincidence, then, that within domestic noir the female characters may start out helpless in their situations but they end up taking charge rather than needing to be rescued by a hero.

Some may argue that domestic noir reflects the cynicism of modern times. The relationships that appear to be the happiest, the most ‘perfect’, are merely a façade behind which lurks something unspeakably sinister – as seen in Behind Closed Door, by B.A. Paris, and Between You and Me, by Lisa Hall.

All of those may play a part, but I think the appeal of domestic noir is far more simple.

Picture this: it is a chilly autumn evening. The light is fading and you’re hurrying home beneath the glowing streetlights, hands in pockets, trying to think of what on earth you’ll cook for your dinner. Everyone else all ready seems to be home; the houses on the streets you’re passing have their curtains closed, and behind them you can imagine people sitting cosy and warm. The lights from one house spill onto the street, though. They haven’t drawn their curtains and you can clearly see into the front room. It is as open and illuminated as a stage.

I bet you turn your head. I bet you glance inside. I bet you look at the way the room is decorated and make instant decisions on the type of person who lives there…

Domestic noir is the illuminated room. It is a peek inside people’s lives that is almost impossible to resist.


Thank you for such a fantastic post Barbara.  I confess, I would look.  I wouldn’t be able to help myself…

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nevx7167-e1457011029669Barbara Copperthwaite is the international best selling author of psychological crime thrillers INVISIBLE and FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD.

To find out more about Barbara, please visit her website.

For more information on INVISIBLE, click here

For more information on FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD, click here.

Connect with Barbara Copperthwaite via Twitter @BCopperthwait | Barbara’s blog | Barbara’s website | Barbara’s Author Page on Facebook |


*Blog Tour: Excerpt* Let There Be Linda by Rich Leder

Welcome to my stop on the #LetThereBeLinda blog tour.  I am delighted to be able to share an excerpt from this black comedy thriller with you today.  Let There be Linda is written by Rich Leder and was published by Laugh Riot Press on 1st July 2016.  Here’s the blurb:

Let.There.Be.Linda.BookCover.jpg“Leder’s black comic caper tells the tall tale of estranged brothers Mike and Dan Miller—accountant and con-man talent agent respectively—up to their necks in the virtual quicksand of LA’s San Fernando Valley during the hottest summer in Southern California history.

The root cause of their problems could be the missing seventy-five thousand dollars, or the sadistic, loan shark dwarf and his vicious giant, or the psycho comedian cop on the case, or the coke-snorting dentist, or the deranged zombie real estate developer. Or perhaps it’s the poodle—the poodle is suspect, no doubt. Or maybe it’s the grocery store checker who breathes life into death. Oh yes, it could be her too.

And so to repair the head-on collision the Millers have made of their personal and profession

I have a review copy of Let There Be Linda on my TBR so look out for a review on damppebbles soon!  To celebrate the release, I have a couple of excerpts to share with you.  Here’s the first one:

“I’m Danny Miller,” he said, taking the chair next to her, “President of Miller Talent Agency.” There was a bamboo reception desk, a wicker loveseat, the two chairs, the big mirror, and a fan that made a dying animal noise. There was no receptionist.

She was sitting, but Danny thought she might be five foot five or so. She had straight-as-string brown hair that was pulled back in a tight ponytail. Her skin was smooth and clear and white, as if she never went out into the Southern California sunshine. She wore zero makeup. No gloss, no eye shadow, no blush. She wore thick black glasses. She was thin, he thought, but he couldn’t really tell what was happening under her blousy blue shirt and gray Catholic-school skirt. She wore knee socks and sensible shoes. She had brown eyes that made him think of coffee. She was younger than him, late twenties. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. She was unadorned in every regard. It was as if she were trying not to be here—or anywhere—trying to be unnoticed by any and all. There was no guessing what kind of talent she thought she had.

“I’m Jenny Stone,” she said in soft voice void of confidence, a voice that in and of itself was trying to be unnoticed. “What do you do, Jenny Stone?” Danny said, putting his hand out.

She shook his hand and said, “I bring dead people back to life.”

And here’s a second excerpt to whet your appetite even more:

It was Wednesday noon. Donald the Dentist only worked a half-day (one to five), which was a good thing because he had been up all night doing cocaine in his office after Detective Shuler had handed over the garbage bag holding his dead dog. He couldn’t bear going to bed and listening to Carol cry herself to sleep.

He had finally dozed off somewhere around six and was awakened by the sound of music—literally; The Sound of Music was blasting in the living room—Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and all the various Von Trapps singing “So Long, Farewell” as they slipped into the night and across the border.

He rubbed his index finger through the white dust on the mirror on the coffee table, ran the finger across his gums, got out of the armchair, picked up the garbage bag that held Chachi’s carcass, and walked out of his office. He went down the hall, intending to grab a shovel from the garage so he could dig a hole in the backyard behind the trees beyond the pool and bury the bag, but he arrived at the large living room just in time to see his wife kick the chair away from her feet—the chair she was standing on, so she could hang herself with the rope she had looped over the rafters that spanned the room beneath the twenty-foot, tongue-in-groove, cathedral ceiling painted Dr. Seuss red.

What do you think?  Are you tempted?  Something a little different maybe?  I’m looking forward to reading this one.  I do like crime and thriller books with a comedy edge to them (something I’ve discovered quite recently actually!).

Let There Be Linda is published by Laugh Riot Press.  Connect with them via Twitter and Facebook.

NEW laugh riot press logo

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Rich Leder has been a working writer for more than two decades. His screen credits include 18 produced television films for CBS, Lifetime, and Hallmark and feature films for Paramount Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, and Left Bank Films.

He has written four funny novels: McCall & Company: Workman’s Complication; McCall & Company: Swollen Identity; Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench; and Let There Be Linda.

He founded Laugh Riot Press as an imprint for his funny books and the funny books of other indie authors.

He has been the lead singer in a Detroit rock band, a restaurateur, a Little League coach, an indie film director, a literacy tutor, a magazine editor, a screenwriting coach, a PTA board member, a commercial real estate agent, and a visiting artist for the University of North Carolina Wilmington Film Studies Department, among other things, all of which, it turns out, was grist for the mill. He resides on the North Carolina coast with his awesome wife, Lulu, and is sustained by the visits home of their three children.  Check out Rich Leder’s author page and his Goodreads author page


They Move Below by Karl Drinkwater *Blog Tour: Guest Post & Review*

51+-rQ8ufAL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_“Horror lives in the shadows.

It exists under the earth’s surface in ancient caves; below the vast sea’s undulating waves; under dense forest cover; within a storm’s thick, rolling clouds; downstairs in our homes, when we hear the knife drawer rattle in the night. Even our minds and bodies harbour the alien under the skin, the childhood nightmares in our subconscious.

In this collection of sixteen tales Karl Drinkwater sews flesh onto the bones of our worst fears whilst revisiting some of horror’s classic settings, such as the teen party, the boat in trouble, the thing in the cellar, the haunted museum, the ghost in the machine, and the urban legends that come true. No-one is safe. Darkness hides things, no matter how much we strain our eyes. And sometimes those things are looking back at us.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the penultimate stop on Karl Drinkwater’s July Horror Blog Tour.  ‘Horror…?’, I hear you cry.  Yes, horror.  I LOVE a good horror story and would go as far as saying it’s near the very top of my favourite genre list.  So when Karl was looking for bloggers to take part in his July Horror Blog Tour, I jumped at the chance.

I have read Karl’s fantastic collection of short stories and will share my thoughts with you towards the end of this post.  First up I have a guest post from Karl Drinkwater.  I count myself very lucky as I have had some incredibly honest, truly fascinating guest posts recently.  And that includes this fantastic guest post from Karl, who tells us why he writes and how depression has led him to where he is today.

Why do I write?

Writing is fantasy.

Fantasy is escapism from the darker parts of life.

So writing is like reading, but with a bit more say in what happens.

We all need some escapism. A breathing space from life’s problems, a chance to recuperate and catch your breath before the next frantic season of Reality.

My father died in July 1981. I was 8. My father was only 28. Over the next few years I retreated into books and solitude. I would head off on my bicycle and just spend an afternoon on my own in the fields and woods around my village. Sometimes I felt bad, and didn’t know why. I fantasised that a demon followed me round. I had to see the headmistress at junior school because when I couldn’t take it any more I started screaming: at dinner time, in a hall full of a hundred kids. The headmistress was Mrs Clifton, and she explained that what we imagine in our heads isn’t always how the world is, but it does affect how we see it. I learned to cope a bit better.

At secondary school I seemed to have more trouble making friends than other kids. I fell back on being the class clown. My other defence mechanism was just not going to school. Sometimes I would miss a whole week. I couldn’t face going in. When I did, my diary entries mostly began with “School was shit today.” My emotions were all over the place. Just being a teenager, eh? We’ve all been there.

And so on in college, then university. My friends thought I was confident and popular and intelligent and busy – I was on the environmental committee, and set up an animal group, and went to demonstrations – and they just assumed that if I didn’t turn up to a lecture I was ill, and if there was no answer at my door I must be out. But something was happening to me and I didn’t understand it. I only felt calm if I went for walks at night and didn’t see anybody. I looked in the mirror during the day and hated myself. Until the day came when I couldn’t take it any more and went home to my worried family, and saw a doctor, and was told I was depressed. At last I had a word for it. (It’s always a pleasure for a writer to find the correct word for something; the right word in the right place is the essence of poetic prose.)

I took the year out and spent it reading. I didn’t leave the house much. I read every day and every night. I alternated between horror novels, and the bookcase of Wordsworth Classics I’d bought in the library for £1 each. I also taught myself the basics of Ancient Greek for when I returned to university.

That time was a breathing space from life’s problems, the chance to recuperate and catch a breath before the next frantic season of Reality.

Since then depression has been an on-off issue in my life. But I understood it. I studied psychology, I volunteered with a counselling service, I read books about our minds. By understanding it better I could adapt, and cope. By acknowledging something it loses some of its power over you. As ever, writing was fantasy, and fantasy was escapism. Not running away, but recharging. Other worlds followed more predictable and satisfying rules than our own. I thought I was in control of it. And for the next 20 years I was, mostly.

In 2015 it hit back, hard, following a combination of external events that had been on my mind for a long time. It took me a while to realise it was depression, that monster I thought I had caged up in the attic. I was in a very dark place, with worrying thoughts, and it reached a head on a day while I was in work, completely unable to function or hold my psyche together any more. Once I got home I couldn’t leave the house for 15 days. Long story short: I left my job as a well-respected professional librarian. I was the person who thought nothing of speaking in front of 200 students, teaching them information literacy and getting them to engage with the material; I was the person who made colleagues smile or laugh, who spoke at conferences, who travelled round Wales supporting college libraries, who was the joking MC for the annual quiz at one of them. I was the person who over-estimated how much control he had of his own mind. Hubris and waxen wings and all that follows.

We all need some escapism. A breathing space from life’s problems, a chance to recuperate and catch your breath before the next frantic season of Reality. For some that is writing. For some that is reading. Appreciate it, and do your best to understand yourself, and know that we’re none of us perfect. That’s something we have in common.

On the plus side: I found the time to write They Move Below. Although I loved teaching, being a librarian, and helping people, I like to think that devoting myself to writing will be equally rewarding. Though being an author is a career followed mainly by fools and dreamers. It is not a quick path to fame and fortune.

It’s hard.

Writing well is hard. Though the generally great reviews I receive makes up for that.

Getting noticed is hard. I haven’t found a way of helping with this yet. You need a lot of sales and reviews before sites like Amazon start offering your work as suggestions for purchasers. It’s the successful writers who appear in the “suggestions to buy” boxes. Presumably they’ve worked hard too.

Making money … I don’t even know yet, because each book costs far more to write and publish than it makes back in sales.

But at least I’m doing what I love, and what I was meant to do, and that’s the best most of us can say in this world.

My last word. Even though I fear I’ve gone on too long already, I wanted to end on something of gratitude, and a note of appreciation to people who work for a good purpose – any purpose – in this time of cuts and cynicism. Normally when someone left my institution they would send a very short and polite thank-you email to colleagues; usually with no personal details if there was anything “untoward” about their leaving. Instead I sent this:

From: Karl Drinkwater
Sent: 21 May 2015
Subject: Pob hwyl

I’m sorry no-one has heard from me in a while. In this case it wasn’t that I got locked in the external store or squished in the rolling stacks; I was off work suffering from depression, something I hadn’t experienced so severely since I was an undergraduate and had to take a year out because of it. (Yes, we’re talking over 20 years ago!) During this time off work I agreed to take voluntary severance, so – assuming the paperwork has been properly signed in blood etc – I am no longer a librarian. It seems weird to write that. I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for being such great colleagues. You’re a wonderful bunch working hard in some trying times of change, but at the end of the day it’s worth it because of one thing – no, not the high salaries, the free pencils, the pats on the head or the holidays to Barbados – but because of the LEARNERS. We do affect them, we do help them, and even though we don’t always get to see the end results, libraries and education do change lives. You might not know but I was a failure at school, and hardly got any GCSEs (too busy with my girlfriend of the time; I went to Butlins with her instead of doing my maths GCSE). I rebelled and hated being told what to do. Then I went to FE college (South Trafford College, Manchester) and it all turned around; I ended up loving the independence and the studying, and got GCSEs and four A levels, and went on to university (1st class hons in English/Classics, plus – bizarrely, considering my MATHS ability – a prize for astronomy). But it was FE college that turned my life around. I even went to night school to study philosophy and in the long wait between the morning class and then the evening class I would stay in the library, reading, note-taking, thinking in the blessed silence about all the knowledge held in books, all that we know, all that we forget. Happy times. They turned my life around and that’s how I know colleges and universities and libraries are vital, cogs on which many wheels rely. It was a pleasure to work with you all. Keep honing the learners’ minds.

In case anyone is interested in my plans, I’ll be continuing to work as a writer, but with more time to do it, and maybe improving on my average output of one book every five years. You can contact me via my blog or Facebook or Twitter and it would be lovely to hear from you. If the writing thing fails then I’ll switch to my alternative careers as rock star, astronaut, and amateur pole dancer. Every moment is an opportunity to redefine your goals and yourself; if we only have one shot at this game of life then we have to make it worthwhile. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Best wishes and great peace,


Karl Drinkwater
(Ex-) Academic Services Librarian

Thank you so much Karl for this honest and interesting post regarding a subject many people would shy away from talking about.

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I love a short story collection.  I’m one of those readers that likes to feel as though they are making progress through a book and a short story collection is perfect for that.  All of the stories in this collection are a great length, normally taking somewhere between 15 minutes to 45 minutes to read from start to finish (I am quite a slow reader by the way!).

The stories all are individual in themselves, some with added shock factor whilst others sent chills down my spine.  I particularly enjoyed Creeping Jesus, Just Telling Stories, Claws Truth Forebear, Breaking the Ice (and Second Transcript), The Scissor Man, Overload and Regression.  Some old school horror, some a little different.

I find great horror stories tend to sometimes be more about the things you don’t know than the things you do.  Karl Drinkwater has expertly ended several of the stories with great handfuls of doubt, leaving you guessing and drawing your own conclusions.  I thoroughly enjoyed this approach, especially as it makes you think and consider what you have just read before moving onto the next story.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, to both established fans of the genre and to first time horror readers too.  You don’t know if you enjoy horror novels until you give them a go, do you?  Karl has created a collection of very readable stories which give a comprehensive view of the genre.  Don’t miss out!

Four out of five stars

Many thanks to Karl Drinkwater for providing me with a copy of They Move Below in exchange for an honest review.

They Move Below by Karl Drinkwater was published in the UK by Organic Apocalypse on 24th May 2016 and is available in paperback and eBooks formats | | | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but has lived in Wales for over fifteen years, ever since he went there to do a Master’s degree: it was easier to stay than to catch a train back. His longest career was in librarianship (25 years); his shortest was industrial welding (1 week).

He started writing stories when he was 9, and hasn’t stopped. His writing sometimes spends time in the sunlit patches of literary fiction, where it likes to picnic beneath an old oak tree, accompanied by a bottle of wine, some cake, and soul-searching peace. At other times his words slope off into the dark and tense shadows of horror fiction, and if you follow them you might hear chains rattling behind locked doors and the paranoid screams of the lost echoing in the distance. There is no obligation to enjoy both of those avenues. His aim is to tell a good story, regardless of genre, but it always comes down to life, death, and connection.

When he isn’t writing or editing he loves exercise, computer games, board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, and zombies; not necessarily in that order.


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#Review: Zodiac by Sam Wilson

51Gx7RftG4L._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_“EVERY MURDER IS A SIGN.

In a society divided along Zodiac lines, status is cast at birth – and binding for life. Who you are can be determined by a matter of days, hours, even minutes.

Even for the most experienced detectives, every once in a while a murder can shake them to the core. Like when the Chief of Police is killed in his own home.

For Detective Jerome Burton, catching the case will change his life forever.

Because this murder is only the first piece of a vast and twisted puzzle made of secrets, lies and tragedy.

The signs are everywhere. But is the truth written in the stars or hiding in the shadows?

You know that feeling when you’re really looking forward to reading a book but it doesn’t quite hit the mark?  Yeah, that feeling.  That’s the feeling I’m feeling as I sit here typing this review.  I so desperately wanted to love this book.  It’s the kind of premise that gets my attention immediately.  A twisted serial killer choosing his victims based purely on one factor that only he knows about.  While the investigating officer fumbles blindly, searching for that elusive break in the case.  However, for me, I’m afraid Zodiac fell flat.

Following on from his recent starring role in the apprehension of a Senator’s murderer, Detective Burton is allocated another high profile case.  The Chief of Police has been brutally murdered and it’s down to Jerome Burton to find the culprit.  Disappointingly (for him) he is partnered with Lindiwe Childs, an astrologer.  Lindi is keen to participate in the investigation, Burton is not so keen on having Lindi aboard.  Nor is he keen on her ideas.  But together they must work to solve the case and save another victim from ’embracing their element’.

Let’s get this out in the open straight away: I don’t really believe in astrology.  But I do love a book with a killer hook and this book, I thought, had a killer hook!  However, what I didn’t expect was the set up of the story and the general cross-genre feel of it.  To me it felt parts fantasy, parts dystopian, parts crime and quite mixed up.  The blurb clearly says the book is based on a society where your star sign determines who you are, how you speak, how you dress, how others see you and the job you have.  I just didn’t realise the extent of this.  In this book it’s everything; the MOST important thing.  It defines you above all else.  Others will love this book and I expect it to get rave reviews, it just didn’t sit well with me.

The story did take me by surprise thanks to a twist I was not expecting.  As I neared the end of the book I did start to feel more connected with the story, more involved.  It is a good book but it just felt a little too astrology heavy for me and that must have taken a lot of research by the author.  I’ve learnt things I didn’t know about star signs!  I would like to read another book by Sam Wilson (one that doesn’t have an astrological thread to it) just to see how it compares.  Oh, and I do love that cover!

Three out of five stars.

Many thanks to Penguin  UK – Michael Joseph, the author and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Zodiac in exchange for an honest review.

Zodiac by Sam Wilson is published in the UK by Penguin UK Michael Joseph on 3rd November 2016 in eBook format.  Other formats to follow at a later date. | | | Waterstones | goodreads |

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Sam Wilson is a writer and TV director working in Cape Town.  Connect with Sam via Twitter @WombatSam.

Guest Post: Jane Risdon (crime author) #damppebblesTakeOver

Welcome, welcome, welcome!  I am delighted to have crime writer Jane Risdon join me today on damppebbles. Welcome to my little blog Jane, I’m thrilled that you were able to stop by.

Emma, thanks so much for the opportunity to post on your blog today. I am thrilled to bits to be here.

For those who have not come across me before here is a little information about how I came to be here:

My name is Jane Risdon and I am a Crime writer. As far as I am aware there isn’t any cure.


I began writing seriously some 5-6 years ago having worked in the International Music Business for most of my adult life, with short spells early on in my career at the Ministry of Defence, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The Atomic Energy Research Establishment and Social Services – not as a Social Worker I should add.

Having married a Rock musician whilst very young and having a son early on, we’ve led a crazy life as you might imagine. With the way the music business was back in the early days of our marriage someone had to earn a regular salary; me. Later on when his successful band split-up he and I ventured into Recording Artist and Producer management, with the management of Songwriters, Singers and Musicians all over the world, but mainly in the USA and Asia as well as Europe. Our artists all had American Recording Contracts and some wrote music for Television series and Movie soundtracks, and therefore we worked with varied genres of music.

fave recording studio

A favourite studio in Los Angeles

As you can imagine life on the road constantly touring and performing, or doing personal appearances, Press events etc., or being stuck in an aeroplane travelling thousands of miles a week, recording or working in various countries on projects which took up our time, day and night, for months, was pretty full-on. Time off was a distant dream. Tiredness, jet-lag and unrelenting pressure from Record Companies to have our acts write, record and tour – ‘give us the hits.’ – were our constant companions, as well as mainly young men in their late teens early twenties, with all that brings to the table. Although we managed females too and boy, what a handful they could be. Anyway the point I am making is that there was little time off and certainly limited time for anything other than sleep when not in meetings in Hollywood, London, Taipei or Singapore. Writing was a distant dream for me; something I would get round to doing ‘one day when I get time.’




On the set of Baywatch

Once life had slowed down somewhat and I had time to take stock, I allowed myself to dream of writing full time, something I’ve wanted to do since I was very small when I always had a book or a note pad and pencil in hand. I lived in an imaginary world growing up, the eldest of six children – all my siblings were much younger – with little time for myself or privacy. I read mostly action and adventure stories and loved Enid Blyton, Robert Louis Stevenson and Biggles, and later writers like Agatha Christie, Daphne Du Maurier, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane and John Le Carre, whose writing was magical for me. These authors fuelled my imagination and I desperately wanted to be them. I also wanted to act like Katharine Hepburn, dance with Fred Astaire, and sing like Doris Day or Sarah Vaughan. We all have our dreams.

My writing career – if you can call it that – began modestly. I wrote on the computer for my own amusement and the only time in the early days I allowed a friend to read what I’d written, put me off having a go again for years. She said I didn’t write like me. I had no idea what she meant but it stopped me trying again. Later an old friend of my husband’s – and mine – who had been his band’s Fan-club secretary and a successful Rock journalist, got chatting to me about writing. By this time she was an award winning author. Once she heard I was dabbling she offered to read my work. Cripes! I nearly passed away in horror. However, after a while I plucked up courage and she got to read lots of pieces I’d written, which varied from full on Crime to Humour and what I call Observational stories. I won’t bore you with the details, but she loved what I’d written and encouraged me to continue writing and to get serious about it.

Eventually I tried my hand at Flash Fiction which was published online and well received, and later several of my Short stories were included in various Anthologies – in print and eBooks – published by various publishers. In 2014 I signed a contract with Accent Press and was included in two of their anthologies. Sometime in late 2016 or early 2017 a novel, Only One Woman,’   which I have co-authored with our life-long friend, Christina Jones, will be published by Accent Press.


I am deeply into writing a series of novels about a former MI5 Officer, Ms Lavinia Birdsong, who is ‘voluntarily’ retired from the Security Services and moves to a rural Oxfordshire village to lick her wounds. In the first novel ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates’ she finds herself embroiled in the search for a missing woman which brings her into contact with Russian Mafia, People Traffickers, Ukrainian Gun-runners, and someone she thought she’d well and truly left behind in her former life.

white horse

This book has, so far, taken me four years to write. Apart from taking a tumble down the stairs soon after I started it which left me unable to dress myself, let alone write, due to a messily broken shoulder and collar bone, I have started to re-write it after attending a family wedding at a huge stately home. Until the wedding ‘The Divine Ms B’ – as I call her – was a sort of 21st century Miss Marple with attitude, but events at the wedding changed all that and I was inspired to write a completely new story; well two more actually. This meant that my original book had to be re-written to encompass the two new books and their story-lines and the way Ms B was portrayed. Her back story changed somewhat. She’d become tougher, more physical and cleverer; her role at MI5 had become more important. So that is where I am at the moment with her. Writing book one all over again.


The wedding venue with a secret

Since I started Ms B all that time ago my writing has improved, so I think, and so has my confidence. I’ve even started to Blog and to use Twitter. It’s funny, but as the manager of recording artists and so on, doing huge deals with some of the most important companies in the world, working with the Movers and Shakers in Hollywood and bashing heads with some of the most infamous Music and Movie business legends, you’d think I would find writing a breeze, after all I have managed Rock and Thrash bands well known for their ‘challenging’ behaviour. But it is the hardest thing I have ever done. When I’ve been working with songwriters or with record producers in the studio it wasn’t me actually having to come up with the lyrics or the music or the bravura productions, although I have contributed on all fronts, but ultimately I didn’t have to perform the material and front it. Writing is so much harder. It is up to me, alone; no-one is going to conjure up a story or character for me or slog it out at the computer. No-one is going to do the difficult research for me, and although I have an editor and proof-reader to call upon at my publishers, it is down to me ultimately. I won’t have a ‘me,’ a manager, guiding my career, promoting me, working themselves ragged twenty-four seven, year in year out, pushing only me and my talents. The publisher can only do so much. I have to come up with the goods all on my own. It is terrifying. It is the biggest challenge I’ve ever had.

Having said all that, I am having a blast. The best time. I am my own boss. I don’t have to babysit testosterone laden young men, or stroppy females with PMT, and I don’t have to sit and negotiate contracts with a guy well known for having ‘Family’ ties (think about it) or sit opposite attorneys with guns and baseball bats on their desks, ready to deal with pushy managers who won’t take no for an answer. I have avoided the concrete boots, the horses head in the bed and the foundations of the latest Los Angeles freeway. I have survived earthquakes, mud-slides and floods, fires, tornadoes and riots and, so far, touch wood, the plague of locusts. See, I told you writing was the biggest challenge I’ve ever had.

In October 2016 I have a Short story in an anthology ‘Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror.’ In aid of Save the Children my story is called ‘Haunting Melody’ and is music-themed.  Some, but not all of my stories have their origins in music – not a surprise really, considering – I have so much experience to call upon. Indeed many of my Crime stories are music-based or have a touch of Espionage about them.

If I have whetted your curiosity you can find more about me and my books on amazon:

My Amazon Author Page | My Accent Author Page | My Author Blog | My Facebook Author Page | My Twitter |

The Books:

Madame Movara’s Tales of Terrormadame movarapublication Oct 2016 featuring
Haunting Melody by Jane Risdon

Wishing on a Star


Published by Accent Press featuring
Merry Christmas Everybody by Jane Risdon.



published by Accent Press featuring
The Haunting of Anne Chambers by Jane Risdon


In A Word: Murderin a word

published by Margot Kinberg featuring
and  Hollywood Cover Up by Jane Risdon

I Am Woman (vol 1)i am woman

published by FCN featuring
The Look by Jane Risdon

Telling Tales tellin tales

published by MoonWorks featuring
The Debt Collector and The Ghost in the Privy by Jane Risdon


And to come 2016/2017

Only One Woman  

By Christina Jones and Jane Risdon
Published by Accent Press


Thank you so much for joining me today Jane and for telling us about your exciting journey to writing.  I can’t wait to read your Ms Birdsong Investigates book as it’s set in my home county!  I live just down the road from The White Horse.  I’ve also added the Madame Movara anthology to my wish list as I do love a bit of horror.

All of Jane’s books are available on Amazon so pop on over to her author page and have a look.

Guest Post: J M Hewitt (author of Exclusion Zone) #damppebblesTakeOver

I am one lucky book blogger this month.  All these phenomenal authors writing pieces to feature on damppebbles, woah!  Today is no exception as the very lovely J M Hewitt joins me.  I feel warm fuzziness towards Jeanette as she was one of the very first people to follow me and tweet me on Twitter, comparing our (very similar) taste in books!

Anyway, fuzziness aside, here is Jeanette’s inspirational post:


In 2012 a wise woman told me; ‘your work must have a tone of familiarity, so with each book that you write your readers have an idea of what to expect.’

This woman was Jojo Moyes, and four years ago I was lucky enough to be selected by her as a finalist in the Marie Claire Inspire and Mentor Campaign. I got it; I knew exactly what she meant. It was like on Project Runway when the contestants had to make their clothing range for the grand finale. The pieces would be different, but there must be a cohesive thread running through the entire collection, an identity stamp for the designer, if you will.

My next big step was figuring out what my stamp would be. In the end, like so many other things in life, I got it when I stopped thinking about it. Once I did that, it became blindingly obvious and apparent that my ‘thread’ had been there all the time.

I looked back over all the work I had written, even those old manuscripts that sit in the bottom drawer, discarded and gathering dust. They were all based in other locations, and they all incorporated real life historical events.

From New York to Northern Ireland, from Paris to Pripyat, the settings in the early manuscripts were a telling sign of what was to come.

The historical element that now features in all of my work became apparent more slowly. Obviously with my debut crime fiction novel, Exclusion Zone, the 1986 nuclear disaster played a pretty big role. I discovered I really enjoyed fictionalising the event and I also saw a pattern that had emerged from the kinds of books I liked to read myself. I enjoyed finding out what happened behind the scenes, or, what could happen. We know that some residents didn’t leave Chernobyl after the deadly explosion; I wanted to know who they were and why they stayed? This led seamlessly into the next book, based in Scheveningen; a seaside resort in Holland, I had my setting already covered. I just needed the crime. In real life Schev is a lovely place, idyllic, and it proved hard to find a major crime that had happened there. In fact, while scouring old newspapers, there was only one that stood out for me and that was the brutal slaughter of three Irishmen in spring of 2000. I collected the facts of the crime and then once again, looked beyond it to the people that were directly involved. Who were they? Why did this happen to them? What were they mixed up in that lead to such a grisly demise? And I found my story.

So it took a few years for Jojo’s words of wisdom to really hit the mark, but now they have, there really is no stopping me and my own personal identity stamp!


Thank you Jeanette.  And thanks to Jojo Moyes for her sound advice, otherwise we would be one great thriller writer down.  And just to prove my point, here’s the blurb and cover for Jeanette’s debut Exclusion Zone:

51vO9+zSZ1L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_“On 26th April 1986, reactor four exploded at the factory in Pripyat, Chernobyl.

At the same time teenager Afia Bello vanished from her home without a trace.

The damage from the nuclear fallout is examined over the following weeks, months and years by Afia’s younger sister Sissy, as she unwittingly uncovers clues relating to her sister’s disappearance, and the secret life that Afia kept hidden from her family.

In the summer of 2015 Private Detective Alex Harvey is hired to investigate the disappearances that have been occurring within the exclusion zone.

He can think of only one person to bring along with him to help; Ukrainian national Elian Gould.

Elian – who was adopted at birth – has her own reasons for accepting the job; namely to search for her own family history which has always been a mystery to her.

But the remaining citizens of Chernobyl are hiding their own secrets and with a darker force at work, the missing person’s case suddenly turns into something much more serious…

Exclusion Zone is a gripping thriller that will keep readers hooked to the last page.”

Thanks again Jeanette for joining me today.  It’s been a treat to have you visit and thank you for such a wonderful post.  Please come back to damppebbles again soon.

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image-10-07-16-11_39Silver Prize in the author v author competition 2008 (supported by the National Literary Trust)

Shortlisted for the Inspire and Mentor Campaign – selected by Jojo Moyes 2012

Two books independently published in 2010 and 2013

Longlisted for the Retreat West First Chapter Competition 2015

Winner of the BritCrime Pitch Competition 2015

Winner in the Twisted 50 Short Story Competition 2016. Short story ‘Fingers’ to be published in the Twisted 50 Anthology.

Appearing at the Felixstowe Book Festival in 2015 and 2016 and the East Anglia Author Festival 2016.

Member of the CWA, ITW and East Anglian Authors.

J M Hewitt’s website | Twitter: @jmhewitt | J M Hewitt’s author page on Facebook |


Guest Post: Alison Baillie (author of Sewing The Shadows Together) #damppebbesTakeOver

Today it is my great pleasure to welcome the very talented Alison Baillie, author of Sewing The Shadows Together, to damppebbles.  Alison has written a wonderful post explaining the inspiration behind the people and places in her debut novel.  If you haven’t come across Sewing The Shadows Together before, here is the blurb:

cover STST“Can you ever get over the death of your sister? Or of your best friend?

More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah.

“Shona had been gone for so long but the memories still came unexpectedly, sometimes like a video from the past, sometimes distorted dreams, but she was always there.”

When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears. Dark secrets from the past are uncovered, and there is another death, before the identity of the real killer is finally revealed…

Set in Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and South Africa, Sewing the Shadows Together is a thoroughly modern murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing to the end. Filled with characters who could easily be friends, family or people we work with, it asks the question:

Do we ever really know the people closest to us?”

Alison has kindly offered me a review copy of Sewing The Shadows Together so look out for a review on damppebbles soon (ish!).

Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie

Like many debut novelists people are always asking me if the story is based on my life, or if the characters are based on real people. It is totally fictional, but places and people have inspired the book and incidents from my life have been woven into it.

The story is told through the eyes of Tom and Sarah, the brother and best friend of a teenage girl who was murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, in the seventies. They meet up again after many years, at a school reunion, and feel an instant connection because of their shared experience.

They have both been scarred by what happened. Tom and his family emigrated to South Africa after the tragedy, where Tom has drifted, never having a proper job or a real relationship.  Sarah keeps up the pretence of a lovely family life in her beautiful Edinburgh New Town flat, typified by Sunday lunches with her TV chat show host husband, her grown-up twins and her widowed mother. However, cracks soon appear beneath the facade of her perfect life.

When the local misfit who had been convicted of the crime is proved to be innocent, Tom and Sarah are caught up n the search for the real killer and dark family secrets are revealed as suspicions fall on family and friends before the truth finally comes to light.

The idea for Sewing the Shadows Together first came to me when I was teaching at Portobello High School nearly forty years ago. There were several high-profile murders in Scotland at that time and I couldn’t stop thinking about the effect this must have on the family and friends of the victims. The seeds of the novel were planted then, but it took many years before I actually wrote it and many things that happened in-between influenced the plot.

portobello beach

Portobello beach

The main settings of the book are based on places I know well. Portobello is a
very important place to me, my mother came from there and we always spent family holidays there when I was young. In the book I try to capture the special atmosphere of this Victorian resort with its promenade beside the long beach with the distant coast of Fife shimmering in the haze beyond the Firth of Forth.

I lived in Edinburgh for many years and I enjoyed writing about the Georgian buildings, the cobbled streets, the silhouette of the castle against the northern sky,  and also the bars that I love there.

Part of the book is also set in the Outer Hebrides, where Tom goes to scatter his mother’s ashes (the reason he came back to Scotland) and this section was based on a poignant holiday I spent there with a dear friend of mine, when we scattered her husband’s ashes on a deserted beach at sunset. I’ve tried to capture the wild isolated atmosphere of these islands, which made a great impression on me.

When I started writing the book, Tom and his family went to Australia, a country I’ve only visited once. But I’ve spent several holidays in Plettenberg Bay, a beautiful seaside resort on the cape coast of South Africa and realised this would be a much better place for them to go. I wrote quite a lot of the book there, inspired by walks along the wonderful beach, watching the dolphins leap in the crashing waves.

People ask if Sarah is me, and I suppose she does reflect part of my personality (although I’ve never had to suffer as she did) but there are also parts of me in Tom, and Rory, Sarah’s husband, is partly based on my ex-husband.  As the book is about ordinary people in extraordinary situations I always tried to imagine how I would react if I were in their position, although fortunately I haven’t had to suffer as they do.

Other incidents also found their place in the story. I went to a school reunion, and thought then that this would be a good starting point for the book, where back-stories could be introduced in a natural way. At this school reunion I also met my favourite old English teacher, who shares some characteristics with HJ Kidd, the teacher in the story, but only the nice aspects!

I vividly remember sitting in the classroom with this teacher as a thirteen-year-old when we read the poem Bat, by DH Lawrence. This poem is set in Florence at the Ponte Vecchio, where the poem was watching the swallows flying. Suddenly he realises that the flying creatures are not swallows but bats. This poem made a big impression on me, and I include this scene in the book as it reflects the theme of appearance and reality. The title Sewing the Shadows Together also comes from this poem.

All works of fiction are bound to reflect aspects of the writer’s life, and mine does too. Many readers have written to me saying how they could identify with certain scenes and characters.  I’m always thrilled by this and am glad it also reflects the experiences of readers, as a wife, husband, brother, mother, child or friend. I also love it when readers say they could feel themselves in the scenes with my characters and experience the setting. Lots of people who have never been to Scotland have said it made them want to jump on the next plane!

My next book is partly set in Scotland, where my heart will always be, but there is also sections set in Switzerland where I now live. I hope that readers will also be able to identify with these settings.

Thank you, Emma, for having me as a guest on your lovely damppebbles blog.  You can read more about me on my website, on Facebook at Alison Baillie Author and occasionally on Twitter at alisonbailliex.


A pleasure Alison, thank you for your fantastic post.  Please feel free to stop by damppebbles again soon.

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Alison Taylor-Baillie

ALISON BAILLIE was brought up in Ilkley, Yorkshire by Scottish parents. She studied English at the University of St Andrews, before teaching English in Edinburgh secondary schools and EFL in Finland and Switzerland. Now she spends her time reading, writing, travelling, playing with her granddaughter and attending crime writing festivals.

Guest Post: Lucy V Hay (author of Tear Me Apart: SkyJack, part of The Forgotten Women Series) #damppebblesTakeOver

I am thrilled to have the incredibly talented Lucy V. Hay join me today on damppebbles.  For those who don’t know Lucy she is a woman with many strings to her bow.  Not only is she an author but her day job involves the film industry and she is the associate producer of two films (starring Danny Dyer).  However, the reason I am in total awe of Lucy is that she runs two blogs, TWO!  The first is which offers advice, support and encouragement to writers.  The second blog is all about Lucy’s own writing and her love of the crime genre.  Lucy’s latest release is Tear Me Apart: SkyJack which is part of The Forgotten Women series.  Here is the blurb for Tear Me Apart: SkyJack.

“In the not-too-distant future, women have started dying out due to a mysterious event known as The Fall. Set nine years after it began, SKYJACK follows the fate of Maddy, one of the survivors of the ominous London City Haven where remaining women and girls were rounded up by government scientists.

Having escaped to the Westcountry with her father Bill, they created a fort with other surviving women and male allies as their last stand. They feel safe; roadblocks and nature have created barriers in the way of a river, the moor and the sea. But what they don’t count on is the air…

SKYJACK is the first novella in The Forgotten Women series, which explores the journeys of four young women through the brutal post-apocalyptic world of Tear Me Apart.

For more content including the feature-length film, animated web comics and novella anthology visit”

I am delighted that Lucy has chosen to write about star ratings.  I’ve been blogging since January and I still haven’t quite got the hang of where good stops and bad starts.  I wrote a review recently which I started by saying that I wasn’t sure how many stars I wanted to give the book.  I have to confess that several days later, I am still wondering whether I made the right decision…

star ratings graphic

By @LucyVHayAuthor

If there’s anything that gets authors, readers, book bloggers and social media lurkers talking online, it’s the reviews system!

Just what IS a ‘good’ review, or a bad one? Are they for readers’ benefit, or the author’s? Should authors respond to bad reviews? Should book bloggers not review books not enjoyed, or is that dishonest? The list goes on and on.

As well as being an author, I am a passionate reader and book reviewer. As well as reviewing my own crime fiction book picks via my ‘Best of 3’ feature on my blog and on my Goodreads profile, I opened up the floor for others to do the same, too. (If you want to send me *your* ‘Best of 3’ for your favourite crime fiction novels? CLICK HERE).

Having been a book reviewer for over eighteen months now, here’s my Star Rating Guide based on my experiences:

  • Star Ratings Mean Different Things To Different People

This is an interesting one, because as far as I’m concerned, 3 stars is a GOOD rating (provided it’s with a non-critical review!). Others will consider it ‘neutral’, others will consider it ‘bad’. You need to decide how *you* see stars and what they’re ‘worth’.

  • 3 Stars Means Different Things On Different Platforms

It’s worth remembering sometimes reviewing platforms see ratings differently, too. 3 Stars on Goodreads means ‘good’, but on Amazon it means ‘it’s okay’. This lead me to reviewing a number of books as four stars at first early in my reviewing, that these days I’d rate as 3. But no problem, lesson learned.

  • For Some, Stars Matter Less Than The Review

As a reviewer, star ratings are kind of secondary to me. I don’t write long reviews but I’m always honest (even though I lean to the positive side). As an author too, I don’t care about the star rating as long as the review is constructive – yes, even 1 or 2 star reviews! For others however, it will be the opposite.

  • Star Deduction Is A Thing

I never announce the deduction of stars, but I may do in my head if I feel the ending is not up to scratch, or characters are doing stuff that seem a bit ‘handy’. Some reviewers however will be more overt about this and say, ‘this was a five star book, BUT …’

  • For Some, ‘DNF’ Reviews/ Ratings Are Acceptable 

DNF reviews and ratings are for those books readers did not finish. I have particular hatred of these. I really don’t see the point. That said, I don’t think other readers take them seriously – I know I don’t.

So, here’s what my personal star ratings mean:

  • I never give 1 or 2 stars. Yes, I’m one of ‘those’ people! If I don’t like a book, I don’t finish it. If I don’t finish it, I never review or rate it. I work on the basis that just because I didn’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s a bad book or that someone else won’t LOVE it.
  • 3 stars – This is a good book in my opinion and I enjoyed it. This might cover concept, actual writing craft, characters, structure, action, the writer’s style … Anything really!

As a script editor for movies in my day job, I’m really touchy when it comes to dialogue, so at this star rating it’s most likely to be this aspect that I’m ‘marking down’ IF I don’t mention I guessed the twist in advance.  The majority of my reviews are 3 stars and I will recommend this book to others.

  • 4 stars – This is a GREAT book. I’m a structure queen, so it has to flow effortlessly, plus I love a book that’s written with sharp, visual prose. I don’t feel I have to like characters to relate to them or their journeys, but if I feel they do things for the sake of the plot, or the ending feels rushed or conversely ‘too neat’, I might deduct one star from five stars. Overall however, I really, really like this book! I will definitely recommend it and read more from the same author.
  • 5 stars – I LOVE this. The characters have something special about them – they’re not your ‘usual’, plus plotting and structure flows brilliantly. Dialogue is sharp, visuals and the five senses in particular are on point as far as I’m concerned. Most importantly, whodunnit or the twist will have kept me guessing throughout, right up to the last minute. I am now a lifelong fan of this author!

How do YOU see star ratings and reviews? Over to you … 

Thank you Lucy.  I still struggle with 3 stars (is 3 good or bad in my mind, not sure…) but agree wholeheartedly with you when it comes to 4 and 5 stars.  What do you think?

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18237690373_815d61f89a_o1-e1460651356489@LucyVHayAuthor is currently writing her first psychological thriller novel. She is also a script editor for movies and has written the nonfiction book, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays (Kamera Books). Join The Criminally Good Book Club to sign up for news, offers and giveaways.