#BookReview: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks @DeadGoodBooks #TheTakingofAnnieThorne

the taking of annie thorne.jpg“Then . . .

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

Now. . .

The email arrived in my inbox two months ago. I almost deleted it straight away, but then I clicked OPEN:

I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again . . .”

The tricky second book.  I was a huge fan of C.J. Tudor’s debut, the totally unmissable The Chalk Man which blew my socks off and left me a little bit in love with Ed, the main character.  I often still think about him and that brilliant ending (book hangover, much?).  So there was nothing on earth that was going to stop me from reading Tudor’s second novel, The Taking of Annie Thorne.  I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but this has in no way influenced my review.

I loved it.  The Taking of Annie Thorne is just as dark, just as creepy and just as brilliant as The Chalk Man (although I will put my hand up here and confess that I loved The Chalk Man just a teeny tiny smidge more).  There are definite similarities between the two books; a small claustrophobic town, our main protagonist is a teacher (there are other similarities between Ed and Joe which I won’t go into detail about here), strange creepy inexplicable things happening to normal everyday people.  But I enjoyed that, it added to the story for me.

I found our main protagonist to be instantly likeable.  He has a troubled past after discovering his sister, that’s Annie, has changed beyond recognition after she went missing one night.  He’s flawed (definitely flawed) with an addiction to gambling and a penchant for stretching the truth but when he receives an email telling him that ‘it’s happening again’ he feels he must return to the town of his youth and see for himself.  There are elements of the supernatural at play in this novel which would normally turn me right off but the way Tudor has written her story had me engrossed.  I didn’t care that I didn’t really believe in certain aspects of the story.  What is reading if not escapism?  I was captivated from the first page to the last and felt fully invested in Joe’s plight to discover the truth.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely and I suggest if you haven’t read The Chalk Man you download that too.  I’m a huge fan of horror/crime crossover novels and this one is another to add to the favourites list.  Tudor’s writing is sublime and before you know it hours have passed and you’ve forgotten to pick the kids up from school (that didn’t happen…honest!).  Deliciously creepy, totally addictive and the type of book I want to read over and over again.  Don’t miss out on this exceptional book!

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

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 21st February 2019 and is available in hardback, ebook and audio formats with the paperback to follow in July (please note, some of 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 ⋆ Waterstones ⋆ BookDepository ⋆ Goodreads

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cj tudorC. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

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#BookReview: Creature by Hunter Shea @flametreepress #Creature

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“The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal.

But they are not alone. Something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead.

Just like her body, Kate’s cottage becomes her prison. She and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night.”

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time you will know that primarily I am a crime fiction blogger. However, when my reading mojo deserts me I turn to the horror genre to kickstart it. Creature by Hunter Shea was one of the first books I turned to when that happened at the end of last year. I had seen some cracking reviews and I wanted to see for myself what the book was all about. I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but that has in no way influenced my review.

Creature was like nothing else I’ve read in the horror genre before. Yes, this is horror fiction but in a different unexpected way. It’s also a very important love story which ultimately broke my heart. Packed with raw emotion and bucketloads of feeling this book is one we should all read – whether you regularly read horror novels or not. Having finished the book it also became blatantly clear what a personal book this is to the author.

Kate and Andrew are very much in love but Kate is terribly ill suffering from a number of chronic debilitating autoimmune diseases. Knowing that the future isn’t looking too bright Andrew books a three-month break taking Kate from the four walls which imprison her on a daily basis to the peace and tranquillity of a lake-side cabin in Maine’s vast woodlands. What starts out as a dream come true for the couple soon turns into a nightmare. The four walls of their home are quickly replaced by another prison, but this one is altogether more terrifying than they could have ever imagined.

I instantly liked both Kate and Andrew. I admired Kate’s determination to do as much as she could for herself but really felt for Andrew when that determination manifested itself in Kate damaging herself even more. This a slow burn of a read and Shea spends significant time at the start of the book ensuring the reader knows what a struggle life is for this couple. I appreciated that as when the horrors start you feel totally invested in Kate and Andrew. The only other character I should mention at this point is Kate’s dog, Buttons, who is just gorgeous! His dedication to Kate shines through, no matter what.

This is a horror novel though and a horror novel wouldn’t be so without something scary. And oh boy, this is a BIG scary. The writing is tense, taut and descriptive and I found myself holding my breath at certain parts. It’s a little on the gory and gruesome side but you’d be surprised if it wasn’t, right? What I love about Creature is what exactly Shea has achieved here. This is a carefully thought out and well-planned plot and one which I admire greatly. I can’t really say any more without giving away a few spoilers but this book made me want to punch the air with my fist and shout ‘YES!’.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s something completely different to everything else I’ve read in the horror genre, and I expect if I were to read another of Mr Shea’s books that would still be the case. Deeply emotional, totally unexpected and honest. If you don’t tend to read books in the horror genre but have always been intrigued then I suggest you start with this one. A heartbreaking love story and a tale of how chronic illness can tear peoples lives apart.

I chose to read and review Creature. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Creature by Hunter Shea was published in the UK by Flame Tree Press on 6th September 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, ebook and audio formats (please note, some of 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 | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. He’s a bestselling author of over 13 (lucky number!) books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Author photo and bio © https://huntershea.com/

#BookReview: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley @fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK #TheHuntingParty

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“In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.”

There are some books you see and you know you HAVE to read them. It may be a striking cover, it may be an intriguing blurb or it may just be a feeling in your gut that you’re going to miss out on something GREAT if you don’t read a particular book. I can safely say it was all of the above for me when it came to The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a massive fan of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and I had everything crossed that this book was going to have echoes of Christie’s brilliant novel about it. It certainly does but with a wonderfully modern twist to the tale and it stands, two feet firmly on the ground, on its own merit. I love the idea of a group of people completely stranded in a vast inhospitable landscape. People you *think* you know but one of them is a murderer. Who is it? How well do you really know these people? And could you be their next victim…?

University friends Miranda, Katie, Julien, Nick, Giles, Samira and Mark plus the addition of a couple of partners, Bo and Emma, head north from London to the Scottish Highlands for New Year. It’s going to be the holiday of a lifetime, all meticulously planned by prim and proper Emma. However, over the years those strong bonds formed at Oxford have started to break a little. Everyone is busy with their careers or children so it’s tough to find the time to spend together. There’s no escape this New Year though as they’ll be living in each other pockets, miles from anywhere. Just how long will the friends be able to stand each other. How long can they keep the secrets they hide?

The characters and the setting absolutely make this book. The isolation of the Scottish Highlands, teamed with Foley’s very intriguing cast of characters kept me turning the pages at a rate of knots. I can’t say I particularly liked any of them but that never really matters to me. In fact, the more secretive and the more despicable a character is the more I enjoy the book! I wanted to know more, so much so that I read this book in a matter of days rather than the two weeks it’s been taking to finish a novel of late.

The story is told from several viewpoints; those of Miranda the beautiful ‘it’ girl who craves the attention of everyone around her.  Emma, Mark’s girlfriend who is chief organiser of the holiday and a late addition to the group.  Katie, Miranda’s not-quite-so-glamorous BFF.  Heather, the host at the house who has secrets of her own and Doug, the aloof gamekeeper.  Despite using several different voices to tell the story I didn’t find it confusing as all of the narrators stand apart from one another.  They are all very different distinct characters.

What I loved was that the reader discovers there has been a murder fairly early on. Foley, however, manages to keep who the victim is a secret until very near the end of the story. You can’t help speculating though. I make a couple of guesses as I progressed through the book. I won’t mention that there were times when I really hoped it was a certain dastardly character though 😉.  I can’t really put into words how compelling The Hunting Party is so I suggest you get a copy yourself and experience this brilliant book first-hand.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  Without a moment’s hesitation.  It’s creepy and claustrophobic with a brilliant ending.  It’s a perfect example of the books I love to read.  A great page-turner of a book with intriguing characters, a fabulous remote setting and shedloads of suspicion and suspense.  More please! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review The Hunting Party.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 24th January 2019 and is available in hardback, ebook and audio formats with the paperback to follow later this year (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

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lucy foly.jpgLucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Author Links:FacebookTwitter | Instagram |

#Giveaway! It’s damppebbles 3rd blogiversary (sort of…) #win #BookBlogger #damppebbles #amreviewing #booklove

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Hello my bookish friends! A very warm and squishy welcome to damppebbles. Mondays, huh? They tend to be quite rubbish, let’s face it, but I’m hoping to make this Monday HEAPS better for you.

Back in January when I was having a bit of a bookish, bloggish break my little piece of the internet turned three years old…YAY! I’m not normally one to let things like this pass but I was a little grumpy so I did. Shame on me. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t do something to celebrate nearly a month later. Now I have to say it feels as though I’ve been part of the bookish community for a lot longer than 3 years…but in a good way. There have been some incredible highs (and a couple of lows which are now water under the bridge). What I love most about book blogging (apart from the books) are the incredible friends I have made.

Giveaway Now Closed!

So to celebrate three years of damppebbles I am offering YOU the chance to win three Kindle ebooks of your choice (one for each year I have been blogging). I’m afraid the giveaway is UK only as you can only gift ebooks on Amazon to people in the same country as you – grrrrrr. They can be absolutely anything at all (within reason). To enter all you have to do is tell me the three books you would choose in the comments below. That’s it! Easy, right? Although if I had to pick three books it would take me weeks to narrow it down 😉.  Unfortunately, you don’t have weeks (so here’s hoping you’re a little more decisive than I am!).  You have until midday (GMT) on Friday 15th February to comment with your three choices.  There’s nothing like putting the pressure on, lol!

One entry will be selected at random at midday on Friday so please make sure I have a way of contacting you if you are the lucky winner.  The winner will then need to provide me with their Amazon email address so I can ping the books over to them.  Job done!  Good luck everyone and thanks for all of your support over the last three years ❤️.

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#BookReview: Mask Beneath Her Face by Rafael Chandler #MaskBeneathHerFace

mask beneath her face.jpg“During the 1980s, slashers terrorized America. With machetes and masks, these unstoppable killers stalked college campuses, quiet suburbs, and lakeside cabins.

Thirty years ago, Bobbi Metzger survived a massacre at her 16th birthday party. She spent decades putting her life back together.

Tonight, Bobbi will face a new killer: a high-tech slasher hell-bent on opening the doorway to an abyss of unimaginable horror.

How long can Bobbi survive this nightmare? What will she do to protect the people she loves? How much blood is she willing to spill?”

Woah!  Talk about the right book at the right time!  I have been suffering from a rather major reading/blogging slump recently.  I don’t know about you but when that happens I tend to move to another genre for a while.  I read a lot of crime and even though I love it with a passion it’s sometimes nice to have a break.  My chosen ‘pick-me-up’ genre is horror.  The darker, the better.  I tweeted asking for good slasher-type horror recommendations and the lovely Noelle at Banshee Irish Horror Blog suggested I try Mask Beneath Her Face by Rafael Chandler.  Which was lucky as I had won a copy of the book and it was sitting gathering dust on my Kindle.

Why oh why did I leave reading Mask Beneath Her Face for so long?  I have to say it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste but if you’ve got an iron stomach and can handle a little (small under-exaggeration there) violence and gore then this is the book for you.  It opens with a teenage Bobbi fleeing terrified from a slasher who has interrupted her birthday party having slaughtered her friends in the most macabre ways possible.  Bobbi is a final girl.  Something that she has to live with for the rest of her life (however long that may be). We skip forward 30 years and discover how badly the attack affected Bobbi.  She has turned to alcohol and pills to take the edge off and is living in constant fear, waiting for her slasher to return and finish her off.  I should say at this point that the blurb of this book tells you very little and the story is so much more than what it first appears to be.  Bobbi has befriended a group of other ‘final girls’ (who are actually guys), all of whom live a life of fear, waiting for the day their slasher strikes.  Jesse won’t look in the mirror.  Sam is hiding a dark secret.  And then there’s Cris, a teenage loner who works for Jesse.  It’s not just Bobbi who shines from the pages.  The entire cast of characters make this book something very special.

The pace doesn’t let up for a moment.  From start to finish one of the characters is running terrified from a crazed killer, being hacked to death or seeking revenge of some sorts.  Which for the reader means that it’s a very difficult book to put down.  I felt I had to read ‘just one more chapter’ and find out whether X was going to survive…or not.  One more chapter was never enough though.

Would I recommend this book? Hell, yes!  But it’s not going to appeal to everyone.  If however, you’re a fan of slasher horror movies or if you like your fiction erring on the darker side then I strongly recommend this book to you.  If I hadn’t read this book last year then it would be a strong contender for my top 10 of 2019.  If you’re feeling brave then don’t let this one pass you by…

I chose to read and review a copy of Mask Beneath Her Face.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Mask Beneath Her Face by Rafael Chandler was published in the UK on 14th October 2017 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comGoodreads |

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rafael chandler.jpgBy day, I write screenplays for video games. I wrote the stories and dialogue for Dark District, Final Eden, Gangstar Rio: City of Saints, MAG, Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, Rainbow Six: Lockdown, and SOCOM 4. Thus far, I’ve worked as a scriptwriter and/or story designer for Gameloft, Kabam, Sony, and Ubisoft.

By night, I’m a novelist. I wrote The Astounding Antagonists, Dracula: The Modern Prometheus (written with Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker), Hexcommunicated, and Mask Beneath Her Face. I’m hard at work on my fifth novel.

In my spare time, I design tabletop role-playing games and sourcebooks, including Dread: The First Book of Pandemonium, Lusus Naturae, Night of the Slashers, No Salvation for Witches, Obscene Serpent Religion, Pandemonio, Spite: The Second Book of Pandemonium, The Starship from Hell, Teratic Tome, ViewScream, and World of the Lost.

I’ve also written nonfiction, including Fundamentals of Game Development (written with Heather Chandler), The Game Writing Handbook (which was a finalist for the 2007 Game Developer Front Line Awards), and various articles for Gamasutra.com and Writers Digest.

I’m a gamer, a gorehound, a kaijuphile, and a metalhead.

Author Links:WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagram |

#BlogTour┃#BookReview: The Lost Man by Jane Harper (@LittleBrownUK) #TheLostManIsComing

the lost man.jpg“‘He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.’

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…”

Happy Monday! I am delighted to welcome you to my first ‘actual’ book review of the year and my first blog tour post of 2019 which is for The Lost Man by Jane Harper.  I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but that has in no way influenced my review.  I am a huge fan of Harper’s writing having loved her previous novels, the epic The Dry and the superb Force of Nature.  This latest book, however, is a standalone and not part of the brilliant Aaron Falk series so if you’ve not picked up one of Jane Harper’s books before now is the time to start!

When Jane Harper has a new book coming out you can guarantee it will be one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year.  Full stop.  If Jane Harper writes something then oh boy, do I want to read it!  The Lost Man is a brilliant addition to her repertoire but one I found quite different from her previous works.  One thing I will say is that in every Harper novel I have read you can guarantee that the landscape; that desolate isolation, the unpredictability of the Australian Outback plays as much a part of the story as the lead characters do.  I think it’s something us Brits tend to struggle to get our heads around.  Exactly how much open space there is, how far you have to travel to see another human being and how totally alone you can feel.  Harper writes these scenarios with such aplomb and so vividly that I found myself totally immersed in the picture she was painting for us readers.

The Lost Man is about the Bright family, an isolated family of cattle farmers.  You can’t help but like Nathan, the eldest of the three Bright brothers.  Early on you discover that he has done something so catastrophic that the entire town has turned their backs on him.  What exactly that is you don’t discover until later in the story but for a community so dependent on each other and so isolated you can guarantee it’s no small thing.  Despite discovering what terrible thing Nathan did, my like of the character did not waiver.  He comes across as a struggling, part-time, single parent who regrets past decisions he made but most of all he comes across as very lonely.  Tidbits of information fall into the reader’s lap as the story progresses and things gradually start to crystalise.  Before long Nathan realises that not everything is as it seems…

Would I recommend this book? I would. This was a slow burn of a read for me that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-written story.  The setting and the characters combine to make a suspenseful tale about the Bright family and the secrets they hide within their familial bubble.  I had my suspicions about what had happened to Cameron, the deceased middle brother, but it was interesting to watch the story unfold and have my suspicions confirmed.  Harper throws in some wonderful red herrings to keep her readers on their toes and I had several moments of doubt before the perpetrator was uncovered.  You can’t go wrong with a Jane Harper novel and if you haven’t read one of her books before then please do yourself a favour and grab a copy.

I read and reviewed an eARC of The Lost Man by Jane Harper.  The above is my own unbiased opinion.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper was published by Little,Brown on 7th February and is available in hardback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads

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jane harperJane Harper is the internationally bestselling author of The Dry and Force of Nature. Her third book, The Lost Man, was released in October 2018.

Jane has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year.

Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.

Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads |

Review © Emma Welton | damppebbles.com