#R3COMM3ND3D2017 with #BookBlogger Cleo Bannister (@cleo_bannister) #CleopatraLovesBooks

I am thrilled to welcome the lovely Cleo Bannister of Cleopatra Loves Books to damppebbles today.  Cleo’s blog is fabulous and if you haven’t discovered it yet, then you must.

Cleo has joined me today to share her three #R3COMM3ND3D2017 reads.  #R3COMM3ND3D2017 is an opportunity for book bloggers and authors to share what they believe to be three MUST READ books.  The only rule is that the books must have been published in 2017.  It’s that easy.  If you would like to take part then please complete the form at the bottom of this post.

Without further ado, here are the books Cleo has chosen…

a dangerous crossing

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
I was transported back in time and across the world with Lilian Shepard who is on her way to be a domestic servant in Australia. The year is 1939 as Lilian leaves Tilbury Docks and her journey ahead will be one that opens her eyes to life. This book is so well written that it was easy to visualise all that was described and learn a little bit of history along the way – it isn’t crime fiction but there is plenty of suspense. Oh and I have a cameo role in this book after winning an auction organised by CLIC sargent.

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The Long Drop by Denise Mina
I have spent 2017 reading many books that are either true-crime reads or inspired by true crimes and this falls into the latter category. Denise Mina creates a story about Peter Manuel whose life had been spent burgling, vandalising, raping and murdering in Glasgow, she takes us to a meeting between Peter and the father of one of his victims and through this recreates the time and place giving the background from all angles to the crimes committed. This is such a nuanced piece of fiction it blew me away.

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Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham
I love my crime fiction in all shapes and sizes, and eras but there is something especially pleasing about those authors who tackle contemporary subjects. Mark Billingham has chosen this, his fourteenth book in the Tom Thorne series to highlight honour killings. The fact that he does this within a brilliantly constructed mystery certainly makes for compelling reading. Not only is there a great mystery at the centre of this book, the characters and their interactions with each other are pitch-perfect. I know purists will mock me but even though this is some way through a series, it can be read as a stand-alone crime novel, it has so much to offer.

***

Brilliant recommendations, thank you Cleo.  I’ll always have a soft spot for Mark Billingham’s books as his was the first crime series I became obsessed with.  I still kick myself for not introducing myself to him at Harrogate in July!  Good to see Rachel Rhys appearing again and I’ve heard great things about Denise Mina’s latest release.

If Cleo has persuaded you to part with a few pennies, or if you would like to find out more about the books she has suggested, then please click the following amazon.co.uk links:

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys | The Long Drop by Denise Mina | Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham |

About Cleo:
Cleopatra Loves Books started life as a blog in August 2013. I read mainly crime fiction although I do like other genres most notably historical fiction and non-fiction works that inevitably have links with crime. I love reviewing, offering my opinions on all the books I read which include those I’m lucky enough to receive as ARCs and many from my own collection that grows all the time thanks to the fantastic recommendations of other blogger’s reviews

Cleo’s Blog and Social Media Links:
Cleopatra Loves Books | Twitter | Facebook |

If you are a book blogger or an author and would like to take part in #R3COMM3ND3D2017, please complete the following form (before this evening when I will be closing the form for this year):

 

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One GLORIOUS Louise Jensen post (@fab_fiction) @1stMondayCrime @bookouture @TheCrimeVault

Some of you lovely folk may be aware that I am one of the ‘First Monday Crime’ blogger team.  First Monday Crime is a brilliant event held for crime fiction fans on the first Monday of the month in London.  To find out more, visit their website by clicking HERE.  One day I hope to make it along myself so I’ll hopefully see you there 🙄.

When I heard that Louise Jensen is appearing at the event in December, well, I squealed with glee.  You see, I am a MAHOOSIVE fan of Louise’s work.  She is a superb writer and I want other readers to discover her incredible books (my mum thinks I’m on commission, I can assure you I’m not!).  So I came up with the idea of sharing all three of my Louise Jensen reviews in one glorious post.  Three stupendous books, three enthusiastic damppebbles reviews…

the sisterGrace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie’s words the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s. It soon becomes clear that there was a lot she

didn’t know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home.

But something isn’t right. Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace’s mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie . . . Or was there?

This is a psychological thriller and a half!  Huge congratulations to the author, Louise Jensen, as this is her debut novel, what an achievement!  No pressure Louise but you’ve set the bar incredibly high for yourself!

Grace and Charlie are childhood best friends.  On her first day at her new school, Grace encounters a classroom bully who is immediately put in his place by the forthright Charlie.  From there builds an unbreakable friendship, BFF together forever.  But, six years after burying their precious memory box, Charlie is dead.  Grace finds it impossible to cope with the grief, pushing everyone away and gradually falling to pieces. In a bid to help her accept Charlie’s death she decides to find Charlie’s wayward father. It’s something Charlie always wanted to do herself and it feels the right thing for Grace to do.  That’s when the mysterious Anna walks into Grace’s life.  Anna claims to be Charlie’s half-sister but before long she has ensconced herself firmly in Grace’s life.  Grace is overjoyed, she finally has a link to Charlie again.  Or does she…?

Wowsers!  This is a stonking, heart-stopping read and I loved it.  I couldn’t put it down (I refused to put it down more like!).  I loved Louise’s style and I wanted to keep reading, no matter what else was happening around me.  The story was so engaging that I became transfixed with Grace’s tale, wanting to discover what strange occurrence was going to happen next.

I didn’t really warm to any of the characters, except for Grace’s grandfather who was just lovely.  Grace was a little too needy for me.  Charlie would probably be my favourite but she’s only present for a small percentage of the novel so I’m not sure she counts.  As for Dan, Grace’s boyfriend, he needs to man up, grr!  Anna is just sinister with a capital S and thinking about her makes me shudder.  I didn’t want to like any of this lot though, that’s part of the appeal of a psychological thriller.  What’s the point in having likeable characters?

The plot moves at an enjoyable pace.  There are twists and turns along the way which keep you on the edge of your seat.  It’s pretty darn perfect, in my opinion.

Would I recommend this book?  Oh yes, without a doubt.  It’s a creepy tale of when good intentions turn bad.  It had my heart racing and I didn’t want to stop reading for anything.  A fabulous debut and I cannot wait to see what Louise Jensen has in store for us next.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Sister by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by Sphere on 24th August 2017 and is available in paperback format.  Previously published in eBook and audio formats by Bookouture| amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

51ssdz2lgl-_sy346_Jenna is given another shot at life when she receives a donor heart from a girl called Callie. Eternally grateful to Callie and her family, Jenna gets closer to them, but she soon discovers that Callie’s perfect family is hiding some very dark secrets…

Callie’s parents are grieving, yet Jenna knows they’re only telling her half the story. Where is Callie’s sister Sophie? She’s been ‘abroad’ since her sister’s death but something about her absence doesn’t add up. And when Jenna meets Callie’s boyfriend Nathan, she makes a shocking discovery.

Jenna knows that Callie didn’t die in an accident. But how did she die? Jenna is determined to discover the truth but it could cost her everything; her loved ones, her sanity, even her life.

Jenna is critically ill and needs heart replacement surgery.  The worst possible news at a time when donor organs are scarce.  Luckily for Jenna, a heart becomes available and the transplant goes well.  But Jenna can’t stop thinking about whose heart now beats inside her chest.  She is desperate to meet with the family and they don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting after she gets in touch.  Against the advice of her therapist, Jenna goes to meet Tom and Amanda.  It’s an uncomfortable start but Jenna feels she owes this couple and refuses to walk away.  Then the dreams start, along with other strange feelings and what appear to be memories…things Jenna herself never experienced. Jenna knows that something isn’t right.  The way she is told Callie, her donor, died doesn’t tally with what she’s seeing in frightening visions.  Jenna decides that Tom and Amanda need closure to stop the hurt they’re suffering, and Jenna is the right person to deliver that closure.  So she starts to investigate; attempting to tie the feelings, the dreams and what little evidence she has together.  But the deeper she digs, the more secrets she uncovers. What really happened to Callie?  And how far is Jenna willing to go to find out…?

First off, I want to say that I find it very hard to believe in some of the theories affecting Jenna in this book.  I seem to have a scientific head on my shoulders and try as I might, sometimes (most times!) I can’t submerge myself in unproven theories.  But I want to put that side of things away for now and comment on other aspects of this novel.  I absolutely ADORE Louise Jensen’s writing.  Jensen has a way of pulling you in, the way her words flow is sublime and that is exactly what she has achieved once again.  She is such a gifted storyteller and one of my very favourite writers.  Full stop.  I had highly anticipated the release of this book after falling head over heels in love with The Sister and I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed, despite the scientific noggin!

I absolutely adored Jenna, the lead protagonist.  That drive and determination for her cause gave me goosebumps at times.  I love a strong, spirited female lead in my books and Jenna fits the bill nicely.  Strangely, that same determination did also annoy me a little.  Particularly when she was pushing away ex-boyfriend, Sam and best mate, Rachel in her bid to give Callie’s parents closure.

As I have come to expect from Louise Jensen’s writing, you never really have a hold on exactly who the bad guy/gal is or his/her reasons for being the bad guy/gal until the reveal.  The Gift is full to the brim of twists and turns.  There was an audible gasp from me at one point; I was so shocked by what I was reading!  Brilliantly crafted twists which send your brain into overdrive as you try and guess what will happen next.  But I bet you can’t…

Would I recommend this book?  I most definitely would (and grab yourself a copy of ‘The Sister’ whilst you’re at it!).  Sleek, assured writing that pulls the reader into the story from the opening pages until the shocking conclusion.  Superb!

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

The Gift by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by Sphere on 16th November 2017 and is available in paperback format.  The Gift was originally published in eBook and audio formats by Bookouture | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | WaterstonesGoodreads |

And last but by NO MEANS least….

the surrogate coverShe can give you everything you want… But can you trust her?

Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents. All they want is a child to love but they are beginning to lose hope. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives them one last chance.

Kat and Lisa were once as close as sisters. The secrets they share mean their trust is for life… Or is it?

Just when the couple’s dream seems within reach, Kat begins to suspect she’s being watched and Nick is telling her lies.

Are the cracks appearing in Kat’s perfect picture of the future all in her head, or should she be scared for the lives of herself and her family?

How far would you go, to protect everything you love?

Dare I say this is Jensen’s best book to date?  Y’know what, I think I dare!  The Surrogate has become my very favourite of Louise Jensen’s books knocking the incredible The Sister from the top spot.  If this one doesn’t end up on my list of top ten books of the year then there is something seriously wrong with me.

Kat is desperate for a baby.  Unable to have her own child she turns to adoption to fill the baby-sized hole in her heart.  But when it all falls through she is devastated.  After all, she has decorated the nursery for Dewei and is a familiar (rather too well-known) face in Mothercare.  The second attempt to adopt Mai also falls through leaving Kat at her wit’s end.  And then Lisa miraculously appears in her life.  Unsure of her intentions to start with, Kat is wary of her ex-best friend.  The women have a murky past which Kat fears has not been forgotten.  Before long, Lisa is entertaining Kat with tales of how she acted as a surrogate for a friend, how she gave birth to baby Gabrielle and then willingly handed her over.  How she feels more of an aunt towards the baby than the infant’s birth mother.  Kat can see a way out of her predicament, a way in which she can finally have the baby she so craves.  All she has to do is convince husband Nick and make sure she keeps Lisa happy and relaxed, totally stress-free.  But exactly how far is Kat prepared to go for that little bundle of joy…

There are so many surprises in The Surrogate that I became dizzy with joy while reading.  You think you know what’s going on, where the story will lead you but in reality, you know nothing!  Jensen has created a wonderfully intricate web of lies and half-truths with bucketfuls of creeping paranoia.  I loved it! (I may have said that already…)

The thread of malice woven through many of the character’s relationships was sublime.  The reader is frequently given glimpses into Kat’s teenage years at school and her interaction with the younger Lisa.  We also get to see how Nick, Kat’s husband was raised by his parents and how, due to injury and the inability to work, Nick’s father begins to mistreat his son.  Both episodes are unsettling and add so much emotion to the story.  I found myself becoming more and more invested in Kat and Nick, knowing something awful was heading their way but not knowing exactly what.

And WOAH, that ending.  Hugely satisfying, totally unexpected and I can guarantee it will stay me for some time to come.  I had my own ideas of how I wanted the story to end but what Jensen has given the reader blows everything else out of the water.  Absolutely superb!

Would I recommend this book?  Without a shadow of a doubt, I would.  If you are a fan of the psychological thriller then you MUST get yourself a copy of The Surrogate.  Louise Jensen just keeps getting better and better and I am so excited about what she has in store for us in the future.  You’ve set the bar even higher now, Louise.  No pressure!  A superb, twisty read that I wish I could give more than five stars to.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Surrogate by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by Bookouture on 27th September 2017 and is available in eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

So there you go, a plethora of Louise Jensen loveliness.  Three cracking books, three reviews.  I think it’s fair to say I’m a fan, Louise!

Louise Jensen will be appearing at December’s First Monday Crime event alongside Chris Whitaker, Susi Holliday and Mel McGrath.  All expertly moderated by Claire McGowan.  The event takes place on Monday 4th December, 6.30pm at City University, College Building, A130.  Click HERE to book your FREE ticket.  Plus, because it’s December and we’re all starting to feel jolly festive, there will be extra fun and frivolities in store!  Check out the First Monday Crime website for more information.

about the author3

Louise Jensen author pic - no creditLouise Jensen always wanted to be Enid Blyton when she grew up, and when that didn’t happen she got a ‘proper’ job instead.

Several years ago an accident left Louise with a disability and she began writing once again, to distract her from her pain and compromised mobility. But writing turned out to be more than just a good distraction. Louise loves creating exciting worlds, dark characters, and twisted plots.

Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, sons, a dog and a rather naughty cat, and also teaches mindfulness.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Blog | Facebook |

#R3COMM3ND3D2017 with #Author Jackie Baldwin (@JackieMBaldwin1) @KillerReads #DeadMansPrayer

I am delighted to welcome author Jackie Baldwin to damppebbles today.  I read and reviewed Jackie’s debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer, towards the end of last year and I absolutely flipping loved it.  Click HERE to read my review.  Jackie has kindly joined me on the blog today to share her three recommended reads published in 2017.

#R3COMM3ND3D2017 is where I ask book bloggers and authors to recommend three must-read titles.  I have only one stipulation and that is the books must have been published in 2017.  Easy, right?

Here are Jackie’s recommendations…

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Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
I loved this book principally because it was like nothing else I have ever read. The ending made me gasp and it really demands to be put away for a few weeks before the exquisite delight of reading it again. Right from the first page I was sucked in to the world of the characters. Louise was warm, funny and engaging and Adele, well she was something else! A character with more layers than an onion and incredibly complex. I don’t think I have ever been so intrigued by a character or so eager to get to the bottom of a mystery. The pace never flags, cranking up throughout until you are almost unbearably tense. Totally lived up to the hype!

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I have read so many books but this one I am confident will stay with me forever. I loved Eleanor to the extent that I felt a strong urge to be her friend and protect her. Super intelligent, friendless, spiky and scarred she determinedly navigates her way through a confusing world anchored by her unyielding routine and a vodka habit. Her world slowly starts to tilt when she helps an elderly man who has collapsed and as a result is drawn inexorably towards abandoning her life of careful solitude and confronting her painful past. For me, it was in turns, tragic, funny, touching and ultimately uplifting. A celebration of what it is to be human and how we all need to love and be loved.

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The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
This had an intriguing premise. A loved up newly married couple are offered a strange wedding gift which is membership of a club that promises its couples will never divorce. They sign The Pact and are in awe of the glitzy parties and prestige that membership conveys. Things quickly turn dark, however, when one of them breaks the rules. The punishments for infringement become more and more severe until they are trapped in a living Hell rather than the marital bliss promised. They can either conform and stay safe or fight the club to live their marriage on their terms. Their very lives could be at stake. This was an intriguing premise and an exciting rollercoaster of a read. I read it really quickly as I couldn’t bear to put it down. In some ways it made me think about a film I’d enjoyed called The Box in that from the moment they signed on the dotted line, things quickly spiralled out of control and about how one decision can have devastating and unforeseen consequences.

***

Thank you so much, Jackie.  Brilliant recommendations.  I have ‘Behind Her Eyes’ on the TBR and I’ve added ‘The Marriage Pact’ to my wishlist!  EDIT: Having written this post a week or so ago, imagine my surprise when I received a NetGalley email offering me a copy of ‘The Marriage Pact’ (which I obviously accepted!).  Anyone else ever feel like you’re being watched….?!

If Jackie has managed to tempt you too, or if you would like to find out more about the books she has mentioned, please click the following amazon.co.uk links:

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough | Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman | The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond |

About Jackie:
Jackie Baldwin is a Scottish crime writer. Her debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer, was published by Killer Reads, Harper Collins.The second in the series is due out in the Spring.

About Dead Man’s Prayer:
514ibchgoml-_sx325_bo1204203200_A dark and gripping crime debut, the first in an exciting new series. Eighteen years ago, DI Frank Farrell turned his back on the church. But when an ex-priest is murdered in his hometown, he has no choice but to delve into his past. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, James Oswald and Val McDermid.

Ex-priest DI Frank Farrell has returned to his roots in Dumfries, only to be landed with a disturbing murder case. Even worse, Farrell knows the victim: Father Boyd, the man who forced him out of the priesthood eighteen years earlier.

With no leads, Farrell must delve into the old priest’s past, one that is inexorably linked with his own. But his attention is diverted when a pair of twin boys go missing. The Dumfries police force recover one in an abandoned church, unharmed. But where is his brother?

As Farrell investigates the two cases, he can’t help but feel targeted. Is someone playing a sinister game, or is he seeing patterns that don’t exist? Either way, it’s a game Farrell needs to win before he loses his grip on his sanity, or someone else turns up dead.

amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

Jackie’s Social Media Links:
Website | Twitter | Facebook |

If you are a book blogger or an author and would like to take part in #R3COMM3ND3D2017, please complete the form below (last chance to join in!  Form closes Sunday evening GMT):

#R3COMM3ND3D2017 with #BookBlogger Sarah Hardy (@sarahhardy681) #ByTheLetterBookReviews

**WordPress seems to be testing me at the moment, seeing if it can catch me out.  I don’t think Sarah’s #R3COMM3ND3D2017 posted properly first thing this morning.  I’ve tried to republish it but it’s still playing silly monkeys and not appearing where it should!  As a result, I have decided to copy and paste the original text to a brand new post where it will hopefully stay.  My apologies to Sarah for the muddle.  But lucky people, you get two doses of the gorgeous Sarah Hardy**

Today it’s my pleasure to welcome another absolutely awesome book blogger to damppebbles.  Sarah Hardy is the lady behind the mighty ByTheLetterBookReviews, another of my favourite book blogs.

Sarah joins me today to share her #R3COMM3ND3D2017.  #R3COMM3ND3D2017 is my new feature which I plan to run until the end of the year (or longer if people want to take part).  I’m asking all book bloggers and authors to come up with three MUST READ books.  The only stipulation is that the books must have been published in 2017.  There are no other rules and participants are free to choose books from any genre, providing they were published in 2017.

Here are Sarah’s recommendations…

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The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury
This was the third book I had read by the author and his first stand alone. From the beginning of the story I wasn’t sure what to expect but the further I got into it the more involved and emotional I got. I love it when a book stays with so you for ages after you have read it, which is what this one did.

TheKindredKillers1.1

The Kindred Killers by Graham Smith (JakeBoulder #2)
I had really enjoyed the first book in the series but boy did this one blow me away. The storyline is a very dark one which is sadly very much going on in todays world which in a way gave the story even more of a darker edge to it. This was one of those reads that I seriously could not put down and had me gripped throughout.

sweetpea.jpg

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse
This was just a brilliant book. A female serial killer. What’s not to love! Getting into her head was wonderful yet scary as hell but I absolutely loved every minute of it. If you love a seriously sick and twisted read then you have to read this book.

***

Thanks a million, Sarah, these are great recommendations.  I have The Abattoir of Dreams on my TBR and I’ve already mentioned in a previous how much I love the Jake Boulder series by Graham Smith.  As for Sweetpea, I am desperate to read it but it was the first book I was declined for on NetGalley.  Bittersweet (geddit?) memories!

If Sarah has convinced you that you need one or more of the above books in your life then please click the following amazon.co.uk links for more information:

The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury | The Kindred Killers by Graham Smith | Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse |

About Sarah:
I’m Sarah from Leeds. Through my love of reading I started my own book blog and have never looked back. It’s a hobby that has turned my life around, introducing me to new authors and books as well as a career change and am now part of the publishing world which is a dream come true. I am also a wife and mother to two teenagers and my two furbabies.

Sarah’s Blog and Social Media Links:

ByTheLetterBookReviews | Twitter | Facebook |

For your chance to feature on #R3COMM3ND3D2017 please complete the following form (form closes Sunday evening GMT):

#R3COMM3ND3D2017 with #BookBlogger Sarah Hardy (@sarahhardy681) #ByTheLetterBookReviews

Today it’s my pleasure to welcome another absolutely awesome book blogger to damppebbles.  Sarah Hardy is the lady behind the mighty ByTheLetterBookReviews, another of my favourite book blogs.

Sarah joins me today to share her #R3COMM3ND3D2017.  #R3COMM3ND3D2017 is my new feature which I plan to run until the end of the year (or longer if people want to take part).  I’m asking all book bloggers and authors to come up with three MUST READ books.  The only stipulation is that the books must have been published in 2017.  There are no other rules and participants are free to choose books from any genre, providing they were published in 2017.

Here are Sarah’s recommendations…

the abattoir of dreams.jpg

The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury
This was the third book I had read by the author and his first stand alone. From the beginning of the story I wasn’t sure what to expect but the further I got into it the more involved and emotional I got. I love it when a book stays with so you for ages after you have read it, which is what this one did.

TheKindredKillers1.1

The Kindred Killers by Graham Smith (JakeBoulder #2)
I had really enjoyed the first book in the series but boy did this one blow me away. The storyline is a very dark one which is sadly very much going on in todays world which in a way gave the story even more of a darker edge to it. This was one of those reads that I seriously could not put down and had me gripped throughout.

sweetpea.jpg

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse
This was just a brilliant book. A female serial killer. What’s not to love! Getting into her head was wonderful yet scary as hell but I absolutely loved every minute of it. If you love a seriously sick and twisted read then you have to read this book.

***

Thanks a million, Sarah, these are great recommendations.  I have The Abattoir of Dreams on my TBR and I’ve already mentioned in a previous how much I love the Jake Boulder series by Graham Smith.  As for Sweetpea, I am desperate to read it but it was the first book I was declined for on NetGalley.  Bittersweet (geddit?) memories!

If Sarah has convinced you that you need one or more of the above books in your life then please click the following amazon.co.uk links for more information:

The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury | The Kindred Killers by Graham Smith | Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse |

About Sarah:
I’m Sarah from Leeds. Through my love of reading I started my own book blog and have never looked back. It’s a hobby that has turned my life around, introducing me to new authors and books as well as a career change and am now part of the publishing world which is a dream come true. I am also a wife and mother to two teenagers and my two furbabies.

Sarah’s Blog and Social Media Links:

ByTheLetterBookReviews | Twitter | Facebook |

For your chance to feature on #R3COMM3ND3D2017 please complete the following form (form closes Sunday evening GMT):

#BookReview | #Giveaway: All The Wicked Girls by @WhittyAuthor @BonnierZaffre @1stMondayCrime

all the wicked girls“Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine.

Then Summer vanishes.

Raine throws herself into the investigation, aided by a most unlikely ally, but the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her search becomes.

And perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .”

Wowsers!  If you’re looking for a deeply emotive, delightfully intense and deliciously dark thriller then congratulations good reader, you have just found it.  There are many books which create a buzz.  Some deserve that hype, others…..don’t so much.  What works for Ant* doesn’t necessarily work for Dec*, you get my point I’m sure.  So I was looking forward to reading All The Wicked Girls but I felt strangely nervous too.  Would I ‘get’ this book like other readers have?  Would I fall under its spell when many popular books leave me feeling cold?  Well, yes, of course I would because this book is pure literary magic.

And to kick December off with a bang, I am giving away a copy of All The Wicked Girls to one lucky UK winner.  But more about that later…

Grace, Alabama is a small God-fearing town where teenage twin sisters Summer and Raine Ryan live.  As sisters go, the two girls couldn’t be more different.  Summer is popular and studious, whereas Raine….isn’t.  The town of Grace borders Briar County which is suffering its own living nightmare.  Young, church-going girls are being snatched by ‘The Bird’.  Town legend claims ‘The Bird’ isn’t entirely human.  All that is known for sure is that the police have so far failed to capture the creature.  Then Summer Ryan goes missing leaving only a note behind, which raises even more questions.  Is Summer ‘The Bird’s latest victim?  And what shocking secrets will Raine unearth as she starts her own investigation into Summer’s disappearance? And most importantly, will she ever find her sister alive?

If you’re a fan of the character-driven novel (like me!) then you must get yourself a copy of All The Wicked Girls.  Whitaker’s characters are exquisite, beautiful things full of heart and soul.  The reader is pulled into their world where fear reigns; fear of God, fear of the church, fear of ‘The Bird’ and fear of themselves.  I fell a little bit in love with two of the characters, Noah and Purv, who battle alongside Raine in the search for the truth.  Raine was also a very intriguing character but she’s a little overshadowed by Noah and Purv, her two sidekicks, who shine from the page.  Supporting these three is a cast of incredibly well-written, fully formed and perfectly individual characters.  Chief Black who struggles with a drug and alcohol problem (as well as his past failures), Samson with his unusual looks and peculiar behaviour, the Ryan brothers who stake out Chief Black’s HQ putting on the pressure with the imminent threat of violence, Pastor Bobby and his wife, Savannah – their marriage falling apart while both drown in their own private grief following the tragic loss of their young son.  Such a strong, wonderfully crafted collection of interesting people that I struggled to put this book down.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  This is an emotionally intense thriller which will appeal to so many readers.  Whitaker’s writing is a beautiful thing and I couldn’t get enough of his strong, striking imagery and his captivating prose.  I want more, please.  And soon.  Dark, emotional, unnerving and engrossing.  Superb stuff!

Five out of five stars.

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

Chris Whitaker will be appearing at December’s First Monday Crime event alongside Louise Jensen, Susi Holliday and Mel McGrath.  All expertly moderated by Claire McGowan.  The event takes place on Monday 4th December, 6.30pm at City University, College Building, A130.  Click HERE to book your FREE ticket.  Plus, because it’s December and we’re all starting to feel jolly festive, there will be extra fun and frivolities in store!  Check out the First Monday Crime website for more information.

Giveaway:
To be in with a chance of winning a BRAND NEW, unread ARC of All The Wicked Girls click on the following Rafflecopter link and follow the instructions.  Open to UK and ROI residents only due to postage costs.  Only one winner will be selected.  They will need to provide their postal address to enable me to send their book.  There are no cash alternatives and the giveaway ends at midnight on Tuesday 5th December (GMT).  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker was published in the UK by Zaffre on 24th August 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

*Ant & Dec
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about the author3

chris whitaker.jpgChris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. His debut novel, Tall Oaks, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. Chris’s second novel, All The Wicked Girls, was published in August 2017. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.

Author Links:Twitter |

#CaseClosed: #November2017 #BookOfTheMonth #amreading #amreviewing #bookblogger #damppebbles

Happy last day of November everyone!  Is it just me or has November felt like it has lasted a lot longer than 30 days?!  Maybe it’s because it has suddenly become a lot colder, maybe it’s because I’ve been suffering the loss of my reading mojo this month.

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Who knows.  I will be glad to wave goodbye to the month and welcome December with open arms and chocolatey fingers (yay for Advent calendars, double yay for my first proper Advent calendar in years – my thanks to Dead Good for sending this beautiful thing⬆!).  Please forgive my atrocious photography skills.  You’re looking at the reason I chose to read as my hobby, I don’t think I would have cut it as a photographer!

So back to #CaseClosed and my bloggish goings-on.  November has in one way been a very quiet month for me.  In another way, it’s been wonderfully busy.  I haven’t read very much at all this month and what I have read (bar blog tours), I’ve so far failed to write a review for (boo!).  In other news, my new #R3COMM3ND3D2017 feature has taken off with a rather large, ground shaking bang which I am thrilled about.  I’ll give you a short rundown of the posts so far in a wee while.

I took part in six blog tours during November:

Five were review posts:

Killing State by Judith O’Reilly | The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne | Hell To Pay by Rachel Amphlett | CWA Anthology of Short Stories edited by Martin Edwards | Mother by S.E. Lynes |

And one stop was an extract:

We Have Lost the Chihuahuas by Paul Mathews

With regard to reviews that’s it, I’m afraid.  I think you will all agree, a pretty poor month for me.  The good news (for you, if you like reviews that is) is that I still have three books waiting in the wings which need to be reviewed on damppebbles.  Ragdoll by Daniel Cole, All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker and the absolutely incredible The Wrong Child by Barry Gornell.  Look out for reviews coming your way soon.

So despite not reading very much during November, the blog hasn’t been quiet.  My #R3COMM3ND3D2017 has kept me (and hopefully you) busy.  #R3COMM3ND3D2017 is where I invite book bloggers and authors to share three MUST READ books.  The only stipulation being that they must have been published in 2017.  I am thrilled to have had such an incredible response to this feature and I thank each and every participant, sharer, liker and retweeter for their support.  Thank you!  If you missed any of the posts you can catch up here:

Noelle Holten of CrimeBookJunkie
Nicola Smith of Short Books and Scribe
Joanne Nicholson, author of Positive
Jacob Collins of Hooked From Page One
Katherine Sunderland of BibliomanicUK
Phil Rowlands, author of Siena
Lorraine Rugman of The Book Review Cafe
Amy Sullivan of NovelGossip
Naomi MacKinnon of Consumed By Ink
Jeff Dowson, author of the Jack Shepherd Thrillers
Carmen Radtke writing as Caron Albright, author of A Matter of Love & Death

So far there have been no duplicates so if you’re looking for a book recommendation please do check out the above links as there are 33 brilliant book choices for you to pick from.

One last thing on the #R3COMM3ND3D2017 front; I plan to close the form this coming Sunday evening (3rd December GMT).  If you would like to take part (and I would LOVE for you to take part) then please make sure you have submitted your choices before then.  I am so pleased with how it’s gone this year I will be dragging it, kicking and screaming, back to damppebbles next year.  The form is already up and raring to go for next year, just click HERE to find it.

Changing the subject totally, I am over the moon to confirm that I have managed to steer clear of the dreaded #TwitterJail this month.  I have unfortunately reduced the number of posts I share to Twitter which is keeping the Twitter folk happy but making me a little sad.  Oh well, change sometimes takes time 😢.

And that’s pretty much it for November!  Apart, of course, from my book of the month…

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I’m in a bit of a quandary at this point as I haven’t actually written my review for the most amazing book I’ve read during November – I only finished it today (it’s currently 8pm on 29th November, by the way).  It doesn’t seem right to post it without a review being published so I will pick the best book I’ve read and reviewed (which was also a brilliant read).  My book of the month is….

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Taddah!  CWA Anthology of Short Stories edited by Martin Edwards and published by the incredible Orenda Books!

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If you follow damppebbles regularly then you will know that I am a MAHOOSIVE crime fan.  Crime fiction is what I do.  I don’t tend to read anything outside of the crime genre.  I’m also a massive fan of international crime and that makes this book a perfect read for me.  The contributing authors were given the theme ‘Mystery Tour’ and the result is an engrossing mix of crime at home and away.  I loved it and gave the book an easy five stars!

“If I listed every story I enjoyed then I would be basically giving you the contents page! I love international crime so this was pretty much the perfect read for me.  Chock-full of GREAT stories, written by some remarkably talented people and the perfect Christmas gift for the crime fiction fan in your life.  This is a must-read book.  Don’t miss out!”

And that’s it for this month.  I have no blog tours scheduled for December and a mere two (they are stupendously exciting tours) booked in for January.  I think I’m managing this blog tour and new book ban rather well, even if I do say so myself!  You do have a whole month (bar Christmas Eve, Christmas day and Boxing day) of #R3COMM3ND3D2017 to look forward to though.  Plus my end of year post where I will tell you about my ten favourite books of the year (yes, it may look like thirty books but it’s actually ten.  Honest.  Your eyes may deceive you….it’s TEN!).

So if we don’t speak between now and then have a wonderful Festive season, full of good books and, well, more good books!  Maybe a mince pie or something as well (?).  Tarrah for now.

#R3COMM3ND3D2017 with #Author @CarmenRadtke1 writing as Caron Albright @bombshellpub #AMatterofLoveandDeath

I am thrilled to welcome Carmen Radtke, who also writes as Caron Albright, to damppebbles today.  Carmen is here to recommend three MUST READS, three books published in 2017 which you just cannot miss.  Today is also a very special day for Carmen in the guise of Caron Albright, her women’s literature pen name, as her new book, A Matter of Love and Death is published by Bombshell Books – happy book birthday!

If you haven’t stumbled upon one of my #R3COMM3ND3D2017 posts before then let me explain.  #R3COMM3ND3D2017 is where I invite book bloggers and authors to shout about three books published this year.  That’s the only rule, the books chosen must have been published in 2017.

So without further ado, here are Carmen’s choices:

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Dandy Gilver & A Most Misleading Habit by Catriona McPherson (Dandy Gilver Murder Mystery Series #11)
1920/1930s mystery series set in Scotland, full of wit, humour and clever plots.

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The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters & Joan Hess (Amelia Peabody #20)
The last book by the late Grand Master. She never disappointed, and Amelia Peabody, Egyptologist and sleuth, is pure delight.

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The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
It’s funny, witty, romantic, plus he wrote The Rosie Project.

***

Thank you so much for joining me today, Carmen and for your three recommendations.

If Carmen has piqued your interest or if you would like to find out more about the books she recommends then please see the following amazon.co.uk links:

Dandy Gilver and a Most Misleading Habit by Catriona McPherson | The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters & Joan Hess | The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion |

About Carmen writing as Caron Albright:
Caron Albright fell in love with books as soon as she could read and never grew out of it. With one foot firmly planted in Fictionland ever since, she is moving from one adventure to the next (strictly on the paper of course). She also writes mysteries under real name Carmen Radtke.

About A Matter of Life and Death by Caron Albright:
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Adelaide, 1931. Telephone switchboard operator Frances’ life is difficult as sole provider for her mother and adopted uncle. But it’s thrown into turmoil when she overhears a suspicious conversation on the phone, planning a murder.

If a life is at risk, she should tell the police; but that would mean breaking her confidentiality clause and would cost her the job. And practical Frances, not prone to flights of fancy, soon begins to doubt the evidence of her own ears – it was a very bad line, after all…

She decides to put it behind her, a task helped by the arrival of their new lodger, Phil. Phil takes her to a night club, where she meets charming but slightly dangerous club owner Jack. Jack’s no angel – prohibition is in force, and what’s a nightclub without champagne? But he’s a good man, and when Frances’ earlier fears resurface she knows that he’s the person to confide in.

Frances and Jack’s hunt for the truth puts them in grave danger, and soon enough Frances will learn that some things are a matter of love and death…

Carmen’s Social Media Links:
Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Book Bloggers and Authors, if you would like to take part in #R3COMM3ND3D2017 then please complete the form below (I have had a fantastic response and will be closing the form at the end of this week so if you would like to take part, make sure you send your details before Sunday evening!):

#R3COMM3ND3D2017 with #Author Jeff Dowson @Jeff_Dowson #JackShepherdThrillers @willandwhiting

It is my great pleasure to welcome author Jeff Dowson to damppebbles today with his three 2017 recommended reads.  Jeff is the author of the Jack Shepherd thriller series and his latest release, ‘Cloning the Hate’ is available to purchase now.

#R3COMM3ND3D2017 is where I invite authors and book bloggers to share three of their favourite reads.  Easy enough, right?  There is one catch though, the books must have been published in 2017.

Here are Jeff’s choices…

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Taking Liberties by Helen Black
No punches pulled storyline, some diamond-hard dialogue and a truly ‘in your face’ style.

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Siena by Phil Rowlands
A genuine, deeply engaging story of how grief drives a character to extraordinary lengths.

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The Pledge by Friedrich Durrenmatt
Actually written in 1986, but newly re-published by Pushkin Vertigo. Subtitled “Requiem for the Detective Novel” it’s a brilliantly re-working of the post-war European noir style.

***

Excellent recommendations, thank you Jeff.  I’m a huge fan of the Pushkin Vertigo books myself and always recommend ‘The Tokyo Zodiac Murders’ which is a must read but that was published in 2015 so I probably shouldn’t mention it here!

If Jeff has tempted you with his choices, or if you wish to find out more about the books he has recommended, then please click the following amazon.co.uk links:

Taking Liberties by Helen Black | Siena by Phil Rowlands | The Pledge by Friedrich Durrenmatt |

About Jeff:
Jeff Dowson began his career in the theatre as an actor and director. He moved into television as a writer/producer/director. Substantial screen credits include arts series, entertainment features, documentaries, drama series and TV films. Turning crime novelist in 2014, he introduced Bristol private eye Jack Shepherd in “CLOSING THE DISTANCE”. “CHANGING THE ODDS” followed, and the latest in the series “CLONING THE HATE” was published in August 2017. Jeff is a member of BAFTA and the Crime writers Association.

About Cloning the Hate (Jack Shepherd thriller #3):
Cloning the HateWhen you open a can and it has prunes in it, it’s a can of prunes. Confirms all your expectations. But open a can of worms and your expectations go viral.

Alfie Barnes, brother of Jack Shepherd’s close friend Linda, is beaten to death on the Downs.

Shepherd is warned to stay away from the active police case.

Then Danny Malone, a violent and dangerous ex-copper, knocks on his office door.

amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

Jeff’s Social Media Links:
Website | Twitter |

If you would like to be a part of #R3COMM3ND3D2017 then please complete the following form:

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Mother by S.E.Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) @bookouture

Mother-Kindle.jpeg“How far would you go for the perfect family?

When Christopher Harris climbs into his family’s dusty attic, he finds a battered old suitcase containing a letter. Inside the letter is a secret; a secret about his mother that changes everything. 

Every mother loves their child. Every child deserves to be loved. But Christopher has grown up so lonely it hurts. 

Finally, Christopher thinks he has a chance at happiness. A happiness he will do anything to protect, whatever the cost…

An unputdownable thriller about the lies we tell and the secrets we keep, Mother will hold you breathless until the very last page and leave you reeling. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister and Apple Tree Yard.”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today as it’s my turn, and the final stop, on the Mother blog tour.  Mother is the brand new psychological thriller from one of my favourite authors, S.E. Lynes.  I absolutely fell head over heels in love with Susie’s debut, Valentina.  So much so, I encouraged my own mum who is brand new to the psychological thriller genre to read it.  Needless to say, she loved it!  It also featured highly on my ‘top books of the year’ list in 2016.  If you would like a recap or if you missed it the first time, check out my review of Valentina HERE.

This is S.E. Lynes first release with Bookouture.  It is also one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year.  No pressure, huh?!  I can’t deny, my expectations were high.  I felt nervous, excited and a little apprehensive as I started to read the first page on my Kindle.  The prologue is wonderfully violent and immediately appealed to my darker side.  However, from there the story takes a more sedate turn.  The writing, as I would expect from S.E. Lynes, is excellent.  I just wanted something more to happen.  I’ll lay my cards on the table as I’m one for 100% honesty in reviews, I really struggled with the first half of this book.  Not all psychological thrillers are a thrill-a-minute joyride, I understand that.  I have enjoyed the slow build to a shocking conclusion.  I have enjoyed a particular character’s torment as their impending comeuppance looms with sharp fangs in the shadows.  I just didn’t get that with the first half of Mother.  Something, for me, was missing in that first half.  However, the second half was a different story altogether, I absolutely loved the second half of this book.

The reader is introduced to a young man by the name of Christopher Harris.  Christopher finds out by chance that he is adopted.  Something he has secretly known for many years.  After all, he doesn’t ‘fit’ with his family.  The discovery is made just as departs his Morecambe home for Leeds University.  Turning his back on his parents, Margaret and Jack, and their reserved way of life, he heads out into the big wide world with one mission; to find his birth mother.  Christopher is a restrained chap so follows the correct procedures in his search, an emotionally charged search which leads him to Liverpool and to the arms of Phyllis, the mother he’s always wanted.  Christopher is a new man.  He dresses differently, he behaves differently, his life is finally what he has always wanted it to be.  But when someone threatens his perfect life, Christopher needs to act.  How far will he go to make sure his life remains perfect…?

Christopher doesn’t tell his own story which I thought was an interesting way for the author to tell his tale.  The detective in me spent most of the first half trying to work out who the narrator was and I’m pleased to say I got it right fairly early on (but then convinced myself otherwise as the story progressed!).  I found the relationship between Christopher and his birth mother, Phyllis, a little odd.  Actually, scrap that, it was uncomfortably intense which is why I think I struggled to connect with any of the characters in Mother.  I desperately want to talk about the second half of the book but fear in doing so I’ll be dropping spoilers left, right and centre.  So I’ll just say the last half of the book is deliciously dark and quite surprising.

Would I recommend this book?  I love Lynes’s writing and I would pick up another book by the author in less than a heartbeat.  However, I did find the first half quite slow but I’m so glad I persevered as the last half is really rather wonderful.  Christopher’s story took a little too long to get going for me.  But that’s just me, you may have a totally different experience.  I would recommend this book but with a caveat, that being the first half may not grab you as would hope.  Stick with it, it’s worth it.

Four stars out of five.

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

Mother by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 22nd November 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

S E Lynes Author Photo.pngAfter 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. Her first novel, Valentina, published by Blackbird Digital Books, came out in July 2016. Her follow up novel, Mother, is published by Bookouture.

Author Links:Twitter | Facebook |