#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Girl in the Missing Poster by Barbara Copperthwaite @bookouture #TheGirlintheMissingPoster #BooksonTour #damppebbles

“24 June, 1994 – Nineteen-year-old Leila Hawkins runs from her father’s birthday party into the stormy night wearing her sister Stella’s long red coat. Some say she was crying, others swear they saw her get into a passing car. Nobody ever saw her again.

Present – This time every year, on the anniversary of that fateful night, Stella decorates the small seaside town she grew up in with pictures of her beautiful missing sister. But after twenty-five years, is it even worth hoping someone will come forward? Perhaps the upcoming documentary will spark people’s memories by reuniting all the guests who were there the night Leila went missing.

As old friends gather and long-buried secrets begin to surface, the last thing Stella ever expects is a direct response from someone claiming they took Leila. They want private details of Stella’s life in return for answers. But as the true events of the night of the party play out once again, who is lying? And who is next?

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

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Girl in the Missing Poster by Barbara Copperthwaite – one of my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year! The Girl in the Missing Poster was published on 23rd February and is available in paperback, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Girl in the Missing Poster but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Bookouture for an early copy of the book.

I was giddy with excitement to have a brand new Barbara Copperthwaite novel in my mitts. I’m a huge fan of this author’s books and I highly recommend them all (although – ashamed as I am to admit it – I haven’t read Invisible yet…but it’s on the terrifying TBR!). Copperthwaite is one of my ‘go to’ authors and this latest novel – The Girl in the Missing Poster – marks her triumphant return!

Twenty-five years ago, on the night of her father’s 50th birthday party, Leila Hawkins grabbed what she thought was her new red coat and ran into the night. She was never seen again leaving her family, and in particular her nineteen-year-old twin Stella, lost and devastated. Every year, on the anniversary of Leila’s disappearance, Stella covers the town of Mereford in MISSING posters, all in the hope that someone will have a shred of new information to help Stella understand what happened that fateful night. Her plight brings her to the attention of a true crime documentary filmmaker and despite her reluctance, Stella agrees to take part and help raise awareness of her search. But the documentary does more than raise awareness. When Stella receives an email from someone claiming to be Leila’s killer, she knows she has to play the situation carefully and find out everything she can. But to get the information she craves, Stella has to share personal details with the killer. The more she learns, the more fearful she becomes. How far will Stella go to find the truth…?

Absolutely blimmin’ marvellous! I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl in the Missing Poster with its true crime focus and its immersive plot. The reader is drawn into Stella’s tale of – dare I say it – obsession and grief and is taken for one heck of a ride. Stella is all kinds of reckless and I adored her. I loved that the author hasn’t sugar coated Stella’s need for answers at all. This is what she needs and she’ll do whatever it takes to get the answers – BOOM! Brilliantly done.

Throughout the book there are transcripts from the documentary which help shed some light on what happened that fateful night twenty-five years ago. There are also emails from the person claiming to be Leila’s killer and it was these emails which had me on the edge of my seat. As the story progresses the level of wickedness coming from this person was palpable and I loved it.

My heart really went out to Stella who is unable to move on or live her own life because she feels half of her is missing. Her struggle to let someone new into her life added an interesting extra dimension to the book which – and I’m not a reader who enjoys any kind of romantic relationship in my novels – I enjoyed. Should Stella trust him though? I certainly didn’t. I didn’t trust any of the characters and that included Stella (psychological thriller 101, surely?! 😂).

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Girl in the Missing Poster is a thrilling, gripping read which I didn’t want to put down. I lived this tale alongside the characters and savoured every moment of the story. Stella is a very memorable character and I loved her determination (obsession) and her fearlessness (recklessness). A joy to read and I highly recommend it.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Girl in the Missing Poster. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Girl in the Missing Poster by Barbara Copperthwaite was published in the UK by Bookouture on 23rd February 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesBook DepositoryGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Barbara is the Amazon and USA Today bestselling author of psychological thrillers INVISIBLE, FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD, THE DARKEST LIES, and HER LAST SECRET.

More importantly, she loves cakes, wildlife photography and, last but definitely not least, her two dogs, Scamp and Buddy (who force her to throw tennis balls for them for hours).

Having spent over twenty years as a national newspaper and magazine journalist, Barbara has interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. She is fascinated by creating realistic, complex characters, and taking them apart before the readers’ eyes in order to discover just how much it takes to push a person over a line.

When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: In A Deep Dark Wood by Tina Pritchard @inkubatorbooks @DamppebblesBTs #InADeepDarkWood #damppebbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of In a Deep Dark Wood by Tina Pritchard. In a Deep Dark Wood will be published by Inkubator Books on Sunday 28th February 2021. I chose to read and review a free eARC of In a Deep Dark Wood which has in no way influenced my review.

In a Deep Dark Wood is such an assured, confident debut that it’s clear the author has been honing their craft for some time. It was a pleasure to read and I enjoyed every moment of this entertaining novel.

Mother of two, Fran Hughes, is minding her own business when she witnesses a horrific attack on a local teenager in the woods near her house. As the attack intensifies she realises that the victim – Tyler Ingram – is about to be murdered in front of her very eyes. Unable to stop the inevitable from happening Fran returns home traumatised and shocked, determined to help the police discover who killed the teenager. But the investigation falters. She’s on the periphery and wants to help bring justice to the boy’s family. So Fran decides to do her own digging into Tyler’s life. But what she discovers could have terrifying consequences for Fran and her own family…

In a Deep Dark Wood instantly hooks the reader in with a brilliantly tense scene in a prison which I adored. I needed to know more. I had to find out who this woman was and why she was doing what was being described. From there we’re introduced to Fran and her gorgeous little pup, Buddy, as they take their daily stroll through the deep dark wood and make their horrifying discovery. I quickly warmed to Fran. She’s beautifully normal and reacts in a very measured and mature way to all of the situations she’s put in (*most* situations anyway – sensible decisions don’t always make for gripping thrillers, after all! 😉). I was with Fran every step of the way as she attempted to discover the truth.

The plot is well paced with some very exciting moments and unexpected twists. The storyline really surprised me by heading down a route I wasn’t expecting but I really enjoyed it. One character in particular – for their devious and despicable ways – stood out from the rest for me. An utterly horrible creation who, because I’m peculiar like that, made the book for me. More evilness please!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. In a Deep Dark Wood is an entertaining read and I loved spending time with Fran. I found the book very easy to read speeding through it in under two days. One aspect of the ending felt a little forced to me but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this well-written novel. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of In a Deep Dark Wood. The above review is own unbiased opinion.

In a Deep Dark Wood by Tina Pritchard was published in the UK by Inkubator Books on 28th February 2021 and is available in digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

After a life dedicated to bringing up a family, taking a social science degree, working as a lecturer, a trainer and more recently an independent celebrant, Tina addressed her burning need to write a novel. In a Deep Dark Wood reflects her belief that scratching below the surface of ordinary lives can reveal a rich seam of material. She wrote the book after her interest was piqued by police investigations in the UK Midlands into County Lines Drugs operations. After researching she discovered just how prevalent the problem is in rural communities.

Like many women of her age, the main character Fran has lost a sense of who she is beyond being a wife and mother. She is an unlikely protagonist. In need of a purpose after a terrible year that has left her reeling, she finds it, albeit in a way that ultimately endangers her life.

Tina loves to write and has won competitions for some of her short stories and poetry. She lives in a beautiful part of the world and gains much of her inspiration from walking her badly behaved terrier Horace, in the Derbyshire countryside.

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

“THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker was published in the UK by Viper Books on 25th February 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | the damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girl A by Abigail Dean was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 21st January 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk |  WaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

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

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

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

EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis was published in the UK by Penguin on 9th July 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | bookshop.orgamazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pine by Francine Toon was published in the UK by Doubleday on 1st October 2020 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryBookshop.orgthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

#BookReview: Halcyon by Rio Youers @TitanBooks #Halcyon #damppebbles

Nightmarishly compelling and flawlessly told horror for fans of Paul Tremblay and Joe Hill.

Halcyon is the answer for all Americans who want to escape, but paradise isn’t what it seems. A beautiful self-sustaining community made up of people who want to live without fear, crime, or greed, Halcyon is run by Valerie Kemp, aka Mother Moon, benevolent and altruistic on the outside, but hiding an unimaginable darkness inside. She has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing. And she believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure.

On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. He soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer and sets out to discover the truth, however terrible it might be, behind the island and its mysterious founder.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Halcyon by Rio Youers. Halcyon was published by Titan Books in paperback, digital and audio formats on 23rd October 2018. I received a free ARC of Halcyon but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh wow, this book! I admit it, I’m bookish (shocker, I know!) but rarely do I take to the socials to talk about a book I’m reading (yes, I’m a terrible book blogger). Halcyon hooked me in so quickly and made me fall head over heels in love with the lead characters – a *fairly* average all-American family – that I had to share my concerns, that impending sense of doom, with other book nerds on Twitter. My anxiety was through the roof and by taking regular breaks, putting the book down and taking deep breaths, I had somehow convinced myself (in a completely ridiculous and deluded way) that I could delay whatever horrible things were coming their way. I couldn’t, of course, but I HAD to share how I felt. And if that isn’t the mark of a great book, I don’t know what is!

Martin Lovegrove has had enough. He watches as shocking events are reported almost daily on the news – plane hijackings, mass shootings, multiple car pile-ups, bombings, the list feels endless. Horror after blood-soaked horror. He finally reaches breaking point when tragedy comes knocking at his own door and so vows to do everything he can to protect his two daughters, ten year old Edith and fifteen year old Shirley, and prevent any further trauma. When a stranger in a bar suggests a haven away from the aggression of every day life, Martin is dubious but wants to find out more. How could he not after everything his family have been through? Martin decides to move the family to Halcyon for a few weeks, no more. Unless they really feel at home in their new safe haven. It’ll give them the break they need and hopefully give his eldest daughter, Shirley, something other than darkness to focus on. When they arrive on the island they meet the hypnotic Mother Moon, founder and leader of Halcyon (although no one would be so vulgar as to call her that). After a few days in paradise, Martin realises that not everything is as perfect as it first appears. To help settle his mind and clear up any doubts, he decides to address a few concerns he has with a spot of breaking and entering. The cause of his concern is a small locked box Mother Moon keeps in her cabin. What secrets does it hold? And can Martin handle the truth? Instead of being a haven, it looks like Halcyon could actually be hell on earth…

Halcyon is incredibly well-written and I would pick up another book by this author in a nano-second. What I found particularly enjoyable is how Youers has been extremely clever and gets his reader to fully invest in the Lovegrove family before he starts to tear their lives apart. I found myself enjoying spending time with them and I looked forward to picking up my copy of the book. I mentioned above that they are a *fairly* average family. Well, that’s not entirely true. This is a horror/thriller novel so it has a delightful drizzle of darkness from the opening chapters which comes courtesy of a gift (/curse) one of the Lovegrove clan have. Visions, premonitions, prophesies of great pain, terror and anguish. Horrific night terrors which consume their holder. This darker edge made me love the Lovegroves just that little bit more.

I adored the first third of this book. The pace changes a little for the second third and I found it’s grip loosening a little on me. I was still intrigued as to where the author was going to take the story but watching the happy and contented residents live their happy and contented lives on Halcyon didn’t have the same pull as meeting the Lovegroves (in the first section). Mother Moon is such a brilliantly written character and I found myself surprisingly sympathetic towards her at times. Her story is one of pure darkness and it pulsates with evil. A very memorable character who, despite trying, I probably won’t be able to get out of my head!

The last third is ohmhgoodness, edge-of-your-seat thrilling and I was glued to the book. I was completely in the story with the characters; watching the snow fall and feeling the terror build. It was magnificent.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Halcyon is not a short novel (528 pages) but it’s well worth investing the time in this excellent piece of storytelling. I loved the characters, the setting was beautifully presented, so much so that I can picture Halcyon clearly in my mind’s eye, and the plot took me on one hell of a ride. A thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable reading experience that I would recommend to all. And if the word ‘horror’ puts you off, don’t let it stop you from reading this fantastic book. I promise, you’ll be fine. Recommended.

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

Halcyon by Rio Youers was published in the UK by Titan Books on 23rd October 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsBookshop.orgthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Rio Youers is the British Fantasy and Sunburst Award–nominated author of Westlake Soul and Halcyon. His 2017 thriller, The Forgotten Girl, was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel. He is the writer of Sleeping Beauties, a comic book series based on the bestselling novel by Stephen King and Owen King. Rio’s new novel, Lola on Fire, will be published by William Morrow in February 2021.

#BookReview: The Rosary Garden by Nicola White @ViperBooks #TheRosaryGarden #damppebbles

“It was Ali who found the body of a murdered newborn baby, hidden in the garden of her convent school. In an Ireland riven by battles of religion and reproduction, the case becomes a media sensation, even as the church tries to suppress it. But this is not the first dead baby Ali has found.

For Detectives Vincent Swan and Gina Considine, the pressure to discover the identity of the dead child is little help against a community with secrets to protect. Gina knows all too well how many of Ireland’s girls are forced to make difficult decisions in terrible circumstances, silenced by shame. Is Ali one of those girls? Because what evidence there is, points to Ali herself…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Rosary Garden by Nicola White. The Rosary Garden was published by Viper Books on Thursday 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Rosary Garden. My grateful thanks to Viper Books for sending me an early copy of the book.

Nicola White first came to my attention when the first book in her Vincent Swan series – A Famished Heart – was chosen as a #R3COMM3ND3D2020 pick by author Rachel Sargeant. I said then how much that first book appealed to me. So when the opportunity to read this second Vincent Swan Mystery – set in Ireland in the 1980s – arose, I grabbed it with both hands.

Teenage Ali and her friend, Fitz, make a shocking discovery in the garden shed at their convent school. The body of a newborn baby. Detective Vincent Swan of the Murder Squad is called to investigate the grisly scene but because of Ireland’s turbulent history between religion and a woman’s rights, the case becomes an instant media storm. Particularly when it’s discovered that this isn’t the first dead baby Ali has discovered. The nuns are quick to absolve themselves of any blame. Swan struggles to find a link between his suspects and the child. Nothing seems to make any sense and the investigation falters. But someone is hiding a very dark secret. Someone knows what happened to the baby…

The Rosary Garden is a dark, beautifully written, emotional story which kept me turning the pages. It works perfectly well as a standalone. I haven’t read the first book in the series but I didn’t feel I was missing out. I will be rectifying that though and reading A Famished Heart as soon as I can. The author has skilfully managed to bring her reader into the lives of these characters to the point where they felt so very real to me. I watched as Vincent Swan struggled to find a link to the baby, as Ali was caught up in the media frenzy, wrung out by the press who claimed their pound of flesh and then left on her own to pick up the pieces. The way Ali was treated at times was appalling but sadly I feel this is how life was for young women in Ireland (and elsewhere) in the 1980s.

The subject matter isn’t something everyone is going to be comfortable with. The heart-breaking scenes the author paints are made to make the reader think about life for a young unmarried woman in Ireland in the 1980s and she does it with aplomb. If you’re looking for a book to make you feel something, The Rosary Garden is definitely it. The mystery aspect of the book flows steadily from the very beginning and I instantly liked Detective Vincent Swan, who is having his own issues at home, as well as investigating a very emotional and prominent case. The story builds gradually layer by layer and I was on the edge of my seat as the story edged ever closer to the end. And what an ending! It was a perfect fit and very satisfying.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Rosary Garden is a very compelling and beautifully written heart-felt mystery which I devoured quicker than most other reads of late. There was something quite addictive about the characters and their story. You’re never really quite sure who to trust and I really enjoyed that. I would happily pick up another book by this author and I look forward to reading A Famished Heart soon. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The Rosary Garden. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Rosary Garden by Nicola White was published in the UK by Viper Books on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Bookshop.org | damppebbles Bookshop.org Shop |

Nicola White won the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award in 2008 and in 2012 was Leverhulme Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University. The Rosary Garden won the Dundee International Book Prize, was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, and selected as one of the four best debuts by Val McDermid at Harrogate. She grew up in Dublin and New York, and now lives in the Scottish Highlands.

#BookReview: Shiver by Allie Reynolds @headlinepg #Shiver #damppebbles

“They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.

How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.

When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.

The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.

In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Shiver by Allie Reynolds. Shiver was published last week on Thursday 21st January by Headline and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Shiver but that has in no way influenced my review.

I tried very hard to resist this book but I failed, and I’m so incredibly glad I did. I saw it mentioned a few times on blogs and the socials and it immediately caught my attention. But I am trying to be stronger this year. Yeah, who am I kidding?! So Shiver became my first NetGalley request of the year….and it blew my socks off! I’m still suffering from a bit of a book hangover several days after finishing it.

Milla and four other snowboarders (well, one hanger-on) are attending a reunion at a resort in the French Alps. Milla isn’t sure she wants to attend after what happened last time they were all together. But her crush, Curtis, will be there and the desire to see him is just too much. In fact, he’s the one who invited her so it would be interesting to see if she still feels the same. When they arrive at the resort they find it’s deserted. It’s off-season though so it’s no great surprise. Perhaps the staff will arrive soon. When an ice-breaker game asks some distressing, unsettling questions, the five attendees start to wonder what’s going on. There is no escaping the past. Last time they were together the abrasive, hyper-competitive Saskia went missing and has never been found. Now someone wants answers and they’ll stop at nothing to get them…

I loved Shiver. It reminded me of a Lucy Foley novel in some ways (and I love Lucy Foley). Add to that the dangerous and atmospheric setting of the Alps and I was hooked from the very start. I wanted to return again and again to my copy of the book. When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about the story. Trying to work out how things were going to turn out, picturing the snow covered mountains and the pure terror of being trapped in such a hostile, unforgiving environment. Absolutely flipping marvellous. I lived and breathed Shiver.

There were a couple of tiny things which I didn’t love so much but the overall story and the setting were so strong, I still fell madly in love with the book. For example, this is a book about snowboarding and each chapter is told in either the past or the present. I adored the ‘present’ chapters. The ‘past’ chapters paint the picture perfectly of what happened during that fateful season all those years ago. But there are a heck of a lot of technical snowboarding references and as someone who hasn’t paid a lot of attention to the sport (let’s be fair here, I’ve never really paid any attention to sport full stop! 😂), it all went over my head a little. I found myself googling a couple of things but by doing that, it took me out of the story. But, on the plus side, it’s clear the author knows her stuff and has put her love of snowboarding into the pages of Shiver. It shines through and you can’t knock that really.

I didn’t warm to any of the characters but I loved how dark Saskia’s personality was. She was, by far, my favourite character in the book. I’m not a reader who needs to fall in love with the characters to enjoy a story. All I want are strong personalities (good or bad….doesn’t matter to me) who stand tall from the page and that’s exactly what the author has achieved.

There are lots of lovely twists and surprises in store for the reader in Shiver. I was able to guess one aspect of the story and I had an inkling about another, but the author managed to keep me from committing to my idea by throwing sufficient doubt into situations so I was never 100% sure of anything! This is a suspense thriller so it should come as no surprise that nearly all of the characters carry a secret they would rather not have revealed. Reynolds keeps her reader on the very precipice of a snowy mountain by drip feeding information piece by tantalising piece, and I loved it. I wanted more. I had to know what was going to happen!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I heartily encourage you pick up a copy of Shiver if you enjoy contemporary mysteries with great big dollop of suspense (don’t we all?!). I loved the setting, I loved the story and I loved the way Shiver wormed its way under my skin. It became a bit of an obsession for the five days I was reading it. Oh, and this is the author’s debut novel. HER DEBUT!! I think the future is very bright for Allie Reynolds and I’m certainly going to be keeping an eye out for future releases. Highly recommended.

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

Shiver by Allie Reynolds was published in the UK by Headline on 21st January 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryBookshop.orgMy Bookshop.org ShopGoodreads |

Allie Reynolds is the author of the thriller SHIVER, which will be published in January 2021.

Born and raised in Lincoln, England, she moved to Australia in 2004. She lives on the Gold Coast with her two young boys and a cat who thinks he’s a dog.

Many years ago she competed at snowboard halfpipe. She spent five winters in the mountains of France, Switzerland, Austria and Canada. These days she sticks to surfing – water doesn’t hurt as much as ice when you fall on it.

Her first ever job was a Saturday job in a bookstore, at age 14. She taught English for many years and became a full-time writer in 2018.