#R3COMM3ND3D2018 with #BookBlogger Norrie (@norrie_reads) #ReadingUndertheBlankie #damppebbles

Hello! Welcome to damppebbles and another brilliant #R3COMM3ND3D2018 post. I’m back sharing the book love after a brief break to celebrate anniversaries (10 years!) and birthdays (not going to disclose the years on that one 😉). Today I am delighted to welcome the ever so lovely Norrie of Reading Under the Blankie to share her #R3COMM3ND3D2018 picks. If you haven’t discovered Norrie’s blog yet then what are you waiting for? 😍

‘What is this #R3COMM3ND3D thing you speak of?’ I hear you cry! Well, it’s about the book love and sharing three books you think everyone else should read.  Any author, any genre, any publisher…but with one catch. The books must have been published in the same year.  At the moment we’re sharing the 2018 book love but come 1st November it will be all about 2019.  If you’re a book blogger, author or publisher and would like to take part in #R3COMM3ND3D2019 then please scroll to the bottom of this post and fill in the Google form.

Without further ado, here are Norrie’s choices…

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The Retreat by Mark Edwards
When it comes to suspense, Mark Edwards is one of my go-to guys. He just gets it, you know, like he can see into your soul.
https://readingundertheblankie.com/2018/10/10/the-retreat-by-mark-edwards/

and so it begins

And So It Begins by Rachel Abbott
This is such a cleverly plotted, delicious thriller! Part courtroom drama, part murder mystery, this will appeal for a wide range of crime fiction fans.
https://readingundertheblankie.com/2018/10/08/and-so-it-begins-by-rachel-abbott/

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Tangerine by Christine Mangan
Set in 1950s Morocco, Christine Mangan’s debut is an unnerving story of obsession, deception and some serious gaslighting. Also a great spin on frenemies!
https://readingundertheblankie.com/2018/03/14/tangerine-by-christine-mangan/

Thanks so much, Norrie. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed The Retreat by Mark Edwards and I’m adding your other two choices to my wishlist!

If Norrie has managed to tempt you, or if you would like to find out more about the books she recommends, please see the following links:

The Retreat by Mark EdwardsAnd So It Begins by Rachel Abbott |  Tangerine by Christine Mangan |

About Norrie:
Book lover, cat hugger, coffee drinker, capable of eating half a cheesecake in one sitting. Best not to approach before she had her breakfast.

Loves a good thriller, but would probably not touch romance with a stick. Based on the amount of crime fiction she’s read, could probably solve a crime. Or not, but she would certainly try. Loves science fiction and secretly dreams about joining the Starfleet since she was fourteen.

Norrie’s Social Media Links:
Reading Under the BlankieTwitter @norrie_readsInstagram |

If you’re a book blogger, author or you work in publishing and have three books published this year that you want to shout about then please complete the following form (or click this link: https://forms.gle/PE483qCyrKEgV5Uq6)

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 with #Author Anne Coates (@Anne_Coates1) @urbanebooks #SongsofInnocence #HannahWeybridge #damppebbles

Hello and welcome to damppebbles.  Happy Friday to you! I hope your weekend is overflowing with bookish delights.  I am delighted to welcome a wonderful author to the blog today, the ever so lovely Anne Coates.  Anne writes the brilliant Hannah Weybridge series which I have read and reviewed on the blog before.  Here’s my review of the first book in the series, Dancers in the Wind, along with a guest post written by Anne.  I have book three, Songs of Innocence waiting patiently for me on the shelf and I can’t wait to read it!

What is this #R3COMM3ND3D I speak of? It’s a chance for booky people to share the bookish love and shout about three must-read titles. Any book, any author, any genre, any publisher, one catch. The book must have been published in a certain year.  I’m currently sharing the book love from 2018 following an unexpected bout of illness but watch out for #R3COMM3ND3D2019 which will start on 1st November.  If you would like to throw your hat into the ring then please fill out the form below (places are limited).

Without further ado, here are Anne’s choices…

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Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey
It’s worth persevering with Ms Healey’s second book for the ending. It was a slow start for me but the quality of the writing kept me reading. The theme of a mother trying to help her depressed teenage daughter, who had disappeared for a few days and returned with no knowledge of what had happened, links in to the need in our society to embrace mental health issues.

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Skin Deep by Liz Nugent
Loved reading this, especially the opening set in the South of France where Cordelia Russell’s life has fallen apart. Leaving a corpse in her home, she sets out to find help from her one-time good-time friends and ends up at a glittering party… Ms Nugent creates a backstory of her character’s childhood and and builds up the sense of foreboding until the past meets the present with horrendous consequences. Fabulous story-telling skills.

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Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh
Loved the concept of the serial killer being on the jury and found the detail of how the killer operated and disguised himself fascinating. The fact that I guessed who it was didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book as I wanted to know how it was going to be resolved and my anxiety levels shot up as the plot evolved. Great tension-building writing.

Some excellent choices, thanks Anne.  I have read but not yet shared my review of Thirteen.  It’s such a good book!

If Anne has managed to tempt you, or if you would like to find out more about the books she recommends, please see the following links:

Whistle in the Dark by Emma HealeySkin Deep by Liz NugentThirteen by Steve Cavanagh |

About Songs of Innocence by Anne Coates:
songs of innocence.jpgA woman’s body is found in a lake. Is it a sad case of suicide or something more sinister? Hannah Weybridge, still reeling from her friend’s horrific murder and the attempts on her own life, doesn’t want to get involved, but reluctantly agrees to look into the matter for the family.

The past however still stalks her steps, and a hidden danger accompanies her every move.

The third in the bestselling Hannah Weybridge thriller series, Songs of Innocence provides Hannah with her toughest and deadliest assignment yet…

| amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesHive |

About Anne Coates:
As a journalist, Anne interviewed all types of people and some of their situations made her think “What if…” And so, investigative journalist Hannah Weybridge was born… Anne had previously written seven non-fiction titles and two collections of short stories. She lives in London with three demanding cats and enjoys reading, going to the theatre and cinema, wining and dining.

Anne’s Social Media Links:
WebsiteTwitter @Anne_Coates1Facebook |

If you’re a book blogger, author or you work in publishing and have three books published this year that you want to shout about then please complete the following form (or click this link: https://forms.gle/PE483qCyrKEgV5Uq6)

 

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Rock Hard by Bill Todd (@williamjtodd) #DannyLancaster #RockHard #damppebbles @cobaltdinosaur

D4 - ROCK HARD - Cover

“When Danny Lancaster gets a call from an old friend it’s a chance to swap his troubles in Brighton for a sunshine reunion in Gibraltar. He hasn’t seen Pogo since Afghanistan. They have war stories to retell, beers to drink. But Pogo is broke, sick and in trouble. It started with smuggling cigarettes. Now his Russian boss has taken on a dangerous job for a mystery businessman. A priceless package must be smuggled into Europe across the narrow straits from Africa. But unseen eyes are watching, lives are in danger. A game of Russian roulette is just the start of a deadly clash where two continents meet. And Danny must make a decision. How far do you go to help the man who saved your life?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles today. Today I’m handing the blog over to my guest reviewer (that’s the husband for anyone who doesn’t know!) who is sharing his thoughts on the fourth book in the Danny Lancaster series, Rock Hard by Bill Todd. Make sure you join him again on Saturday when he’ll be reviewing book six, Godlefe’s Cuckoo.

Ryan’s Review:
So…Danny Lancaster eh! Heading off to Gibraltar to meet his troubled ex-Army friend? What could possibly go wrong?

As you’ve probably picked up from this week’s reviews Danny Lancaster is a bit of a trouble magnet, wherever he goes a degree of chaos seems to follow. So when Danny lands in Gibraltar, a tiny territory of 2.6 square miles, the locals should have been getting worried! Danny has gone to Gibraltar to help his old army mate Pogo, who has fallen on hard times since they served together in Afghan. He has gotten himself involved with some dirty business and wants Danny to help him get back on to the right side of the tracks.

Gibraltar was a great setting for this book, the small location added a suffocating tightness to the drama. Bill Todd moves on the story on at a fast pace and you are never sure where the author is leading his characters. Todd’s characters in this book are pitched just right for an action thriller that keeps rolling. No long self indulgent reflection but enough background shared to draw emotion and make the motivation clear. The crime bosses are kept slightly mysterious even when close to the action, pushing the rest of the gang in the right direction (or worse, if needed) but keeping themselves hidden enough from the reader that you make assumptions on what is going to happen next.

As the end of the book approached there were some twists which I will not disclose here to avoid spoiling future readers enjoyment. The ending was also a surprise and provided a sharp end to the book which some may feel was too sudden, whilst others may rush to the next in the series to find out what happens next.

Would I recommend the Danny Lancaster books? Yes, they are easy to read, fast moving and contain an easy to like lead character. Join me again on Saturday when I review Godlefe’s Cuckoo and find out if I enjoyed that one just as much….

Ryan chose to read and review a free copy of Rock Hard. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Rock Hard by Bill Todd was published in UK by DLE Fiction on 26th November 2013 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

The Danny Lancaster Blog Tour

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Bill is a journalist and travel writer who has visited more than 40 countries from the white wastes of Arctic Finland to the ancient deserts of Namibia. He loves a good wilderness. He received the Ed Lacy travel award in 2007.

Bill has written six crime thrillers featuring soldier-turned-investigator Danny Lancaster and was startled and delighted to be voted one of the 100 best crime authors in the WH Smith readers’ poll in 2015. He’s also written three short factual military histories. He lives to write although keyboard time has been cut lately with the arrival of grandson Theo.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Instagram |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #BeforeSheKnewHim

before she knew him.jpg‘They had a secret, the two of them, and there was no better way to start a friendship than with a secret.’

When Hen and Lloyd move into their new house in West Dartford, Mass., they’re relieved to meet, at their first block party, the only other seemingly-childless couple in their neighborhood, Matthew and Mira Dolamore. Turns out they live in the Dutch Colonial immediately next door.

When they’re invited over for dinner, however, things take a sinister turn when Hen thinks she sees something suspicious in Matthew’s study. Could this charming, mild-mannered College Professor really be hiding a dark secret, one that only Hen, whose been battling her own problems with depression and medication, could know about? Lloyd certainly doesn’t seem to believe her, and so, forced together, Hen and Matthew start to form an unlikely bond. But who, if anyone, is really in danger?

From its deeply unsettling opening, Peter Swanson, the master of contemporary domestic thrillers, fashions a novel as brilliant, dark, coruscating and surprising as Patricia Highsmith and Ira Levin at their very best.

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to the first stop on the Before She Knew Him blog tour.  Before She Knew Him is the latest release from a favourite author of mine, Peter Swanson, and was published by Faber Books on 7th March 2019.  I received a free ARC of this book which has in no way influenced my review.

Peter Swanson is a must read author for me.  If you haven’t read The Kind Worth Killing then you’re really missing out.  It’s one of the books I recommend ALL the time when asked.  Swanson’s other books are equally as good.  Check out my reviews for Her Every Fear and All The Beautiful Lies by clicking the links.  When I heard Faber & Faber were about to publish Before She Knew Him I dropped everything else I had scheduled to read it!

Before She Knew Him is another example of what a master Swanson is at writing characters.  The book is all about Henrietta (or Hen to absolutely everyone) and her new neighbour, Matthew.  Both characters have ‘something’ about them which immediately intrigued me.  I wanted to know what was going to happen, what their story was going to be.  Being new to the neighbourhood Hen and her husband Lloyd attend a block party where it is plainly obvious that they are unlike their new neighbours.  They don’t have children whereas everyone else does.  There is one other childless couple present at the party though; Matthew and Mina.  Mina invites Hen and Lloyd to dinner one evening and feeling obliged, they go.  Whilst on a tour of the Dolamore’s house Hen sees something which takes her breath away.  She knows Matthew’s deep dark secret…

Before She Knew Him is a wonderful slow burn of a novel which held my attention from beginning to end.  I felt invested in the characters.  I liked Hen’s obsession with the morbid and macabre, how events in her past made her the perfect unreliable narrator.  I liked how polished Matthew’s character was and his ability to justify his secret dark side.  I also thoroughly enjoyed how convinced I was by the story.  There is one particular twist in the story which made me gasp out loud.  Before She Knew Him was a very satisfying read.

Would I recommend this book?  I would if you’re after a psychological thriller that is chock full of suspense with really interesting characters.  You won’t necessarily like them but oh boy, you’ll want to see their story through to the end.  An intriguing page-turner of a plot where the characters are everything.  Another blinder from a brilliant author and I can’t wait to see what Swanson has for us readers next.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Before She Knew Him.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber & Faber on 7th March 2019 and is available in hardcover, 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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about-the-author3

Peter_Swanson_2016-01Peter Swanson is the author of five novels: The Girl With a Clock For a Heart, an LA Times Book Award finalist; The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year;  All the Beautiful Lies and Before She Knew Him. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 with #BookBlogger Robyn Reo (@sinfullywickedb) #SinfullyWickedBookReviews

Happy Saturday everyone. I hope your plans include lots of downtime, particularly if it’s curled up with a good book. Today I am delighted to welcome a new-to-me blogger to damppebbles, Robyn Reo of Sinfully Wicked Book Reviews. Having had a nosey around Robyn’s blog I’m definitely subscribing as it looks gorgeous!

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 is a chance for book bloggers, authors and those in publishing to shout about three books they loved. Any three books with no bias towards genre, author or publisher. The only catch is that all three choices must have been published in 2018.

Here are Robyn’s choices…

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The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell
It is such a beautiful and moving war time story.
https://sinfullywickedbookreviews.com/2018/08/03/blog-tour-and-review-the-lost-letters-by-sarah-mitchell-bookouture-sarahm_writer/

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A Mother’s Goodbye by Kate Hewitt
It is a heartbreaking story filled with emotion.
https://sinfullywickedbookreviews.com/2018/06/16/a-mothers-goodbye-by-kate-hewitt-review-katehewitt1-bookouture/

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Father Figure by James J. Cudney
It is an extraordinary story that spans twenty years.
https://sinfullywickedbookreviews.com/2018/06/08/father-figure-by-james-j-cudney-blogtour-review-jamescudney4-shanannigans81/

Great choices, thanks Robyn. If Robyn has managed to tempt you, or if you would like to find out more about the books she recommends then please see the following links:

| The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell | A Mother’s Goodbye by Kate Hewitt | Father Figure by James J. Cudney |

About Robyn:
I am a self-confessed book junkie and hoarder of books. My love of reading began many, many years ago when I cracked open my first fiction book when I was still a young girl. Fast forward thirty plus years later, my addiction to reading has not changed. I love being immersed in a story/fantasy where I can fall in love with the characters of a book. My keeper shelf is overflowing with all of the great treasures I have found during my reading journey.

Robyn’s Social Media Links:
| Sinfully Wicked Book Reviews | Twitter @SinfullyWickedB | Facebook |

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 is fully booked but make sure you pop back tomorrow when another fabulous bookish type will be sharing their recommended reads from 2018.

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 with #Author Rachel Sargent (@RachelSargeant3) #ThePerfectNeighbours

It’s the weeeeeeeeeeekend! Happy Saturday, one and all.  I hope you have lots of bookish plans in store.  It’s day TEN of #R3COMM3ND3D2018 and I am delighted to welcome another author to the blog today, Rachel Sargent.  Rachel has kindly made a welcome return to damppebbles and to #R3COMM3ND3D after taking part last year.  If you would like to see what Rachel chose last year then please click HERE.

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 is an opportunity for book bloggers, authors and publishers to shout about the books they love.  Any three books (providing you didn’t write or publish it!) providing they were published this year.  That’s right, all three choices must have been published on or after 1st January 2018.

Here are Rachel’s choices…

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The Disappeared by Ali Harper
As well as being a cracking mystery story featuring likeable but vulnerable sleuths, it will make you smile with its quick-fire humour. It was bliss to have a laugh while reading a feisty crime novel.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2407004485?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

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Shadow Man by Margaret Kirk
A few of the crime bestsellers in the last 18 months have been good but gimmicky. It was refreshing to read a straightforward police procedural that stood its ground on the strength of plot, character and setting.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2488795811?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

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Merciless by Heleyne Hammersley (DI Kate Fletcher #2)
I liked the smooth combination of police procedural and psychological thriller.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40119811-merciless

Thanks for your great choices, Rachel.  I have Shadow Man on my TBR and have been wanting to read it for some time now.  Your other two choices also look very appealing and will be added to the wishlist.

If Rachel has managed to tempt you or if you would like to find out more about her choices, please see the following links:

The Disappeared by Ali Harper | Shadow Man by Margaret Kirk | Merciless by Heleyne Hammersley |

About Rachel:
I grew up in Lincolnshire, spent several years living in Germany where I taught English and now live in Gloucestershire with my husband and children. My latest novel, a psychological thriller, The Perfect Neighbours became a Kindle top ten bestseller. My next book, a police procedural, will be published by HarperCollins Killer Reads in January 2019. I self-published Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty, a novel inspired by the diary of my husband’s grandmother, a nurse at Gallipoli. I am book mad and love discovering authors I haven’t read before.

About The Perfect Neighbours:
the perfect neighbours.jpgThe perfect neighbours tell the perfect lies…
A dark and twisty psychological thriller from a rising star in the genre, perfect for fans of THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR. When Helen moves into an exciting new neighbourhood, she finds herself in a web of evil with no escape.

Behind the shutters lies a devastating secret…
When Helen moves abroad with her loving husband Gary, she can’t wait to meet her fellow expat teachers from the local International School. But her new start is about to become her worst nightmare…

As soon as the charming family across the way welcome Helen into their home, she begins to suspect that all is not as it seems. Then Gary starts to behave strangely and a child goes missing, vanished without a trace.

When violence and tragedy strike, cracks appear in the community, and Helen realises her perfect neighbours are capable of almost anything…

amazon.co.uk | amazon.com |

Rachel’s Social Media Links:
| Website | Twitter @RachelSargeant3 | Facebook |

If you would like to take part in #R3COMM3ND3D2018 (hurry, spaces are limited!) then all you need to do is complete this form:

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 with #BookBlogger Kate Noble (@TheQuietKnitter) #TheQuietKnitter

Hello you wonderful bookish folk.  It’s Wednesday, we’re halfway through the week and we’re one step closer to the weekend…phew!  Today I am delighted to welcome another of my absolute favourite bookish types to the blog to share their #R3COMM3ND3D2018.  Finding a hobby you love in life is a bonus.  Finding a hobby you love and then making some of the best friends you could ever wish for thanks to that hobby is the icing on the cake.  If you’re not already following Kate Noble’s fabulous blog – The Quiet Knitter – then we need to have words!  She’s a wonderful friend and if it wasn’t for this book blogging lark I don’t think our paths would ever have crossed.  Thank you book blogging.

I witter on too much, I know.  Anyway, if you haven’t come across #R3COMM3ND3D2018 before then let me explain.  #R3COMM3ND3D2018 is where I invite book bloggers, authors and publishers to share three recommended reads.  There’s a catch though (there’s always a catch, right?).  The books must have been published this year, in 2018.  Any genre, any title, any author but the publication date must be 2018.

So without further ado, here are the books Kate chose…

the story collector

The Story Collector by Evie Gaughan
This is a beautifully written tale that captures the heart and imagination of readers as it deftly weaves together two stories from different timelines that pull a range of emotion from the audience. Readers first encounter a hint of mysticism, folklore and sadness from the opening pages, setting the tone perfectly for what lies ahead.
https://thequietknitterer.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/celebrating-indie-publishing-with-evgaughan-urbanebooks/

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Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone
Set in an Edinburgh with a difference, the reader is plunged into a world of volcanology and death. The fragility of human psychology is deftly explored, emotions are laid bare and the rawness of grief and the associated disbelief at events makes this such a powerful read.
https://thequietknitterer.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/review-fault-lines-by-doug-johnstone-doug_johnstone-orendabooks/

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Keeper by Johana Gustawsson
Every now and again, there is an author who exceeds all expectations and writes a book that completely blows your mind, and I believe that Johana Gustawsson is one of those rare authors. The plotting is excellent, the characters are so realistic and chillingly authentic, this is a book that EVERYONE needs to read!
https://thequietknitterer.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/review-keeper-by-johana-gustawsson-jogustawsson-orendabooks/

Brilliant choices, Kate.  I remember when The Story Collector was released and the buzz around the book was wonderful.  Fellow bloggers were completely falling in love with it!  Fault Lines is on my TBR and Keeper has a strong chance of being my book of the year.

If Kate has managed to tempt you or if you would like to find out more about the titles she recommends then please see the following links:

The Story Collector by Evie Gaughan | Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone | Keeper by Johana Gustawsson |

About Kate:
My name is Kate, I’m mum to 1 human child and 2 canines. I’ve had a fascination with books for as long as I can remember and most of my spare time is spent either reading or knitting. I live in a wee village in the countryside which is a huge change for a city girl!

Kate’s Social Media Links:
The Quiet Knitter | Twitter @TheQuietKnitter |

If you would like to take part in #R3COMM3ND3D2018, please complete the following form:

 

#damppebblestakeover with S.E. Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) | #GuestPost: In Praise of Insecurity #TheProposal @bookouture

the proposal.jpg“The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead…

Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life and moves to the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.

When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny and charming. He is haunted by his past – but insists he is a changed man. 

He might just be the answer to all of her problems. And Pippa can tell the truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?”

Hello bookish friends.  I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to a #damppebblestakeover, hoorah!  I am thrilled to welcome one of my favourite authors to the blog, the fabulous S.E. Lynes.  Back in yesteryear (2016 to be precise), I was asked to join a blog tour for a book called Valentina.  It was the author’s debut and that author was S.E. Lynes.  The book blew my mind! Since signing last year with Bookouture, Susie’s books have gone from strength to strength culminating recently with Bookouture republishing the mighty Valentina.  But things haven’t stopped there.  On Friday 21st September Susie’s latest release with Bookouture was published, The Proposal.  I am absolutely kicking myself as I am monumentally behind in my reading at the moment but The Proposal is riding high on the TBR and I hope to bring you a review sooner rather than later.  But until then you can enjoy a brilliant guest post from the author herself.  Without further ado, I’ll hand over to S.E. Lynes…

The first question I ask my writing students is not why do you write but why don’t you?

Why don’t you write?

Their answers are variations on the same themes: ‘no time,’ ‘I’m worried I don’t have a story,’ ‘I’m scared people will think it’s rubbish,’ ‘I doubt I’ve got anything interesting to say …’

Pushing the old ‘no time’ chestnut to one side … that’s a whole other article … you will notice words like worried, scared, and doubt. How then do I get these would-be writers to put words on a page? How on earth do I get them to read those words aloud to their classmates?

Well, firstly, I have to get them to acknowledge their insecurities and see them in a different way. And they’ve already taken that step: voicing their worries aloud and realising that everyone else is worrying about the same things. The relief is palpable.

I didn’t write. For years. I was too full of insecurity. And then I did write, but I threw my work away. All of it. Why? Because nothing I wrote compared favourably to my favourite authors, to say the least. My conclusion ran something like: my work isn’t as good as theirs, therefore my work isn’t good at all, ergo, I’m not good. Needless to say, this kind of insecurity was not helpful.

I used to think the answer lay in getting rid of insecurity and reaching a place where I was completely confident. Because being completely confident is possible, right? After all, here we are, in an internet world of bumper sticker philosophies and motivational poster-bites which tell us to believe in ourselves, to be strong, to shine, to be different, to let our weirdness show … whatever. I have no problem with these slogans. In fact, I find their axe-to-crack-a-hazelnut approach a great antidote to my own personal brand of the heebie-jeebies. However, sometimes you feel insecure, you just do, and when that happens, those slogans can compound your insecurity by making you feel inadequate about feeling insecure in the first place. Sheesh! That’s not so helpful! What can be helpful, to me at least, is to embrace my insecurity and use it … and I try and pass that on to my students.

In class, the first thing I try and banish is the ‘my work is not good therefore I am not good’ equation and make a new one along the lines of ‘my work is not good – yet – therefore I need to study and practise’. No writer comes to their first page and dashes off a masterpiece. Well, there might be a few, but they are a very small minority and I blow a raspberry in their general direction. For the rest of us, when faced with the blank page, the pressure to shine is the death of creativity. If you’re trying to shine, you’re not learning. You’re not thinking about your characters and how they see the world. You’re not wondering where they were when they told their wife about the dead body in the bathroom or what they were doing/thinking when they said that. So, in the creative writing classroom, the spirit needs to be not ‘check this out, it’s pretty flipping awesome’ but ‘this is what I’m trying to do, how can I improve it?’ That requires removing your ego from the equation. It’s not about you! It’s about the work! THAT is helpful. THAT is a place of learning.

I encourage my students to think about writing as oboe practice. To write every day not to produce something great but to become a little bit better than last time. And in order to see the need to practice they need to be able to see their work as ‘not good’ or ‘not good enough’ in the right way. They need to embrace the right kind of insecurity.

So, on the cusp of publishing my fourth book and after some lovely reviews, am I able to say ‘I am good’? Good God, no! If I say that, I am dead creatively. None of my books are as good as I want them to be. If I’m proud of them it is because they are the best that I could possibly do at the time. Whatever I do next, I will try to do better. I will read my work back and think, no, not good enough. But I will not sit in a corner and weep. Well, I might, but after that I will return to it and think, how can I improve it? In practical terms, this might be cutting the dialogue back, or showing the character through an action, or upping the tension. In personal terms, it is using insecurity in the right way, using the critical voice constructively.

But maybe the question here, for all of us, is not why don’t we write but why don’t we do whatever it is we dream of doing? Releasing into the world the work you have sweated and fretted over is a risk. It is terrifying. It is exhilarating. Getting on stage is the same. Ditto singing in public. But if you think about it hard enough – and boy, do I ever – walking out of your front door is a risk, isn’t it? What if no one likes you? What if you say the wrong thing? What if your skirt is tucked into the back of your knickers? We are all of us worried about something. But if we can acknowledge our insecurity and realise everyone else feels it too, we can be kind in our intentions towards others and most importantly towards ourselves. We can relax and create the space we need to improve, in whatever it is we’re aiming to do.

Thank you so much for this insightful and inspiring post, Susie.  Dear reader, I hope, if you’re a budding writer, that you’ve taken note.  And as Susie said in her piece, the same applies to us all in whatever we dream of doing.  Feel the fear and do it anyway!

My reviews of S.E. Lynes’s books: | Mother | The Pact | Valentina |

The Proposal by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in 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 | BookDepository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

S E Lynes Author PhotoAfter graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

#damppebblestakeover with Alice Castle (@DDsDiary) | #GuestPost: Why read cozy crime? #LondonMurderMysteries @crookedcatbooks

calamity in camberwell.jpg“Beth Haldane, SE21’s answer to Miss Marple, worries she is losing a kindred spirit when her friend Jen, the only other single mum in the playground, suddenly remarries and moves to Camberwell. 

Soon Beth has to face much more pressing fears. Has something gone horribly wrong with Jen’s marriage? What is her new husband really up to? Why is her daughter leading Beth’s son astray? And where on earth is Jen anyway? 

As Beth’s friends push her to start dating again, Beth turns to Metropolitan Police DI Harry York for help. But will they solve the mystery in time, or will it turn out that in south east London, not everyone gets to live happily ever after?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the second post in the resuscitated and reinvigorated #damppebblestakeover series.  Today I am thrilled to welcome the author of the London Murder Mysteries, Alice Castle, to damppebbles.  Alice is on the precipice of releasing the third book in her Beth Haldane and DI Harry York series so get those pre-orders in now (hitting eReaders on Monday 13th August)!

Without further ado, I will hand the reins of damppebbles over to Alice…

Why read cozy crime? By Alice Castle

We’re living at an extraordinary time for crime fiction. It’s officially now the most popular genre in the UK and, with steamroller successes like The Girl On The Train, crime is dominating not only bookshops but also TV, theatre and cinema screens too.

It might seem like an odd time to resuscitate the gentle tropes of cozy mystery, when the psychological thriller seems to be pushing new boundaries. But I believe that, in difficult times, people are drawn to Golden Age-type stories and find them just as satisfying, if not more so, than violent or shocking fare like twisty thrillers and grisly serial killers.

There’s still huge affection for Agatha Christie’s works, over forty years after her death, as evidenced by the success of recent TV remakes of Witness for the Prosecution, And Then There Were None and Ordeal by Innocence. These have led to the reissuing of many of the original novels in brand new tie-in covers. And who doesn’t love a good old murder amongst well-heeled folk in a country house, or feel a little thrill of satisfaction when the detective calls the suspects into the library for the final denouement?

I chose to write my series in the cozy crime genre, but have updated the formula by setting the stories firmly in contemporary south east London, with all the gritty urban problems that city life brings. I believe this gives my readers the best of both worlds – a secure moral universe, where evil-doers are always punished, a closed circle of suspects based in a beautiful area (lovely Dulwich!) and the real stresses and strains of modern life. Add a dash of satire on the frankly funny ways of the very privileged folk of SE21, and you have a series which I’m loving writing and which I hope will keep going far beyond the five stories which are either currently published or in the pipeline.

My single mum amateur sleuth, Beth Haldane, stumbles into her first investigation and is a hesitant but reckless detective. Her counterpoint is the Met’s DI Harry York, a pragmatist about crime but with a soft spot for Golden Age crime fiction – and for Beth.

If you’d like to read the stories, I suggest starting with Death in Dulwich (http://MyBook.to/1DeathinDulwich) and moving on to The Girl in the Gallery (http://MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery), then Calamity in Camberwell (http://MyBook.to/CiC, coming out on 13th August 2018) and Homicide in Herne Hill (3rd October 2018) with Revenge on the Rye following in 2019. They can all be read as stand alone stories as well. And do pop in to my blog, http://www.alicecastleauthor.com, for more news on the series and events I’m taking part in.

Thank you for joining me today, Alice.  Regular visitors to the blog will know that I love a grisly, gory serial killer – the more blood splatter, the better!  But I do have a rather large soft spot for cozy crime.  As for Christie, show me a crime reader who doesn’t love her books!  How do you feel about cozy crime? Let me know in the comments.

Calamity in Camberwell by Alice Castle was published in the UK on 13th August 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

If you’re a crime author and you would like to take part in #damppebblestakeover then please contact me via damppebbles@gmail.com.  Having originally planned to run the feature over the Summer, I have now decided to make it a regular weekly blog post on a Friday but I need YOU to write something.  No #damppebblestakeover next week though as I’ll be on holiday and it’s my birthday (a rather significant one, at that!).

about the author3

acb.jpegBefore turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019.  Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

Author Links:Facebook | Twitter |

20 Books of Summer 2018 #20BooksofSummer2018 #amreading

I am stupidly excited! Having watched from afar for the past two years I am ready, I am prepped and I am determined to take part in the 20 Books of Summer challenge this year. If you’ve never heard of 20 Books of Summer before then hop on over to the lovely Cathy’s blog at 746 Books and you can find out all you need to know.

The challenge starts on Friday 1st June and participants have until 3rd September to read all 20 books on their lists. Gulp! It’s do-able, right?

20-books

It was a delight to choose my 20 books for the challenge and I’m 99% happy with my list. The odd change may take place here and there (I’m allowed, it’s in the rules!) but hopefully, no one will notice 😉

So without further ado, here are my choices…

Blood City by Douglas Skelton
Cut To The Bone by Alex Caan
Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Heartman by M.P. Wright
Hide and Seek (DI Helen Grace #6) by M.J. Arlidge
Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Normal by Graeme Cameron

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields
Rattle by Fiona Cummins
Sirens (Aiden Waits #1) by Joseph Knox
The Caller (Detective Robert Hunter #8) by Chris Carter

The Dark Inside (Charlie Yates #1) by Rod Reynolds
The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
The Nightstalker by Sebastian Fitzek

The Rule of Fear by Luke Delaney
The White Road by Sarah Lotz
Unsub by Meg Gardiner
Watching Edie by Camilla Way

So there we have it! What do you think? Have you read any of the books on my list? Any you would recommend starting with?

I can’t wait to make a start, but which one to pick first….?? Hmmm 🤔. If you’re taking part in 20 Books of Summer 2018 then let me know in the comments.

Wish me luck because I’m going to need it 😉. I can’t wait to make a start though!