#R3COMM3ND3D is back! #R3COMM3ND3D2021 #BookBloggers #Authors #Bookstagrammers #Publishedin2021 #MustReadBooks #booklove #booktwt #bookrecommendations #damppebbles

Hello bookish friends and a very happy Friday to you. I don’t have a review to share with you today but I do have some exciting news, which probably won’t come as a massive surprise if you’ve been following damppebbles over the last few years!

#R3COMM3ND3D IS BACK!

Woohoo! Because I flipping love it and, from the feedback I’ve had, you rather like it too! #R3COMM3ND3D (in the form of #R3COMM3ND3D2021) will start on 1st November! And, here’s the big news….#R3COMM3ND3D is FIVE years old this year 🥳. Reason enough to take part, I think, if you’ve never participated before!

If you’re new to damppebbles then allow me to explain what #R3COMM3ND3D is all about.

#R3COMM3ND3D is where I ask book bloggers, bookstagrammers and published authors to recommend three ‘must read’ books the rest of us should really make a point of picking up. Three titles you love and want to shout about. They don’t have to be your top three books of the year – just three books that have knocked your socks off and you think others will enjoy. Any author, any genre, traditionally, indie or self-published. Sounds easy, right? There is one catch – they must have been published in 2021 (and I will check!). There are a few other teeny tiny rules (such as reissues and special editions don’t count, authors CAN’T recommend their own books etc but we’ll gloss over that for now…).

The feature will run from 1st November until 30th December, excluding 24th, 25th and 26th December. All other dates are up for grabs. And if there is a specific date you would like then you only have to say and I will do my best to accommodate it. I’m more than happy to schedule your #R3COMM3ND3D for a date to coincide with a book release, a special promotion or an anniversary/blogiversary. And if you’re a published author, I always include information about your latest book in the post too (here’s an example).

There are 57 slots available and I hope to be able to fill them all. However, unlike in previous years, I have decided to put a definitive end date on the sign-up form. The form will close at midday (GMT) on Wednesday 1st December. If I haven’t been able to fill all 57 dates and you’ve selected a later date then I’m afraid I will bring your #R3COMM3ND3D forward and conclude the 2021 series early. Hopefully it won’t come to that. Hopefully all 57 dates will be snapped up 🤞

Tempted? Go on, you know you want to 😉. If you would like to take part then all you have to do is fill in the form below with as much information as possible. Really sell the books to us, make us want to read them too.

A final plea before I sign off. Please, please, please, please check the publication date of all formats on all three of your books before submitting your form. Often the hardback, audio and digital editions are published a full year before the paperback makes an appearance. I love #R3COMM3ND3D but it takes a long time to set each post up. If I then have to contact people and ask them to change one or more of their books, it takes even longer. I hope you understand why I’m asking you to be 100% sure this year.

I know the embedded form doesn’t work for everyone so if that’s you, here’s a helpful link (which shouldn’t cause any problems): https://forms.gle/UqFYws11pWdGHA7n8

I am super excited about this year’s #R3C and I can’t wait to see what you pick!

#BookReview | Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest by Aisling Fowler @HarperCollinsCh @TinaMories #Fireborn #damppebbles

“Set in the snowy northern forests of an imagined prehistoric world, Fireborn is the middle-grade debut of the decade. At turns exciting, funny and heart wrenchingly sad, it marks the introduction of an unstoppable new voice in children’s storytelling.

Twelve has spoken the Pledge and now she is a Huntling. She has given up her name to train in the art of fighting monsters and keeping the peace, and she won’t get to choose a new one until she has earned it.

But when the Lodge’s walls are breached for the first time, and a little girl is taken, Twelve is the only one interested in going after a child . . .

Teaming up with Dog, the Stone Guardian of the Lodge, Twelve ends up on an epic adventure that will change her life, her name – and her entire world.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest by Aisling Fowler. Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest is published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in hardcover, audio and digital formats today (that’s Thursday 30th September 2021). I chose to read and review a free ARC of Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Tina at HarperCollins Children’s Books for sending me a proof copy.

Well, I say ‘me’ but if I’m being truthful, Tina didn’t send a copy to me. She sent it to my 10 year old daughter who saw the book on my Twitter feed and fell in love. She was so excited to read it. It went to school with her, she showed it to her class and told them all about Twelve. It was a complete and utter joy to see how much she enjoyed reading this book. So I had to give it a read myself! I’ll share my thoughts in a tick but first of all, here’s what G thought…

Fireborn is a brilliant book about persevering, courage and friendship. I love how the Frozen Forest challenges Twelve because it keeps on changing and moving around her. The book had a lot of twists and turns. My favourite character is Widge, Twelve’s pet squirrel because he’s really cute, friendly and loyal. The book made me feel excited and nervous for Twelve. I love how there are so many flashbacks from Twelve’s life before she joined the Hunting Lodge. It made me feel as though I knew Twelve really well. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy magical fantasy. I really enjoyed Fireborn by Aisling Fowler and hope for more adventures with Twelve and her friends soon!

What a rip-roaring adventure the author has created for her wonderful lead character! There is so much to love about Fireborn. First of all, it’s perfectly pitched at its young audience with so many thrills and spills along the way. The author’s world building hit all the right notes providing stunning spectacles of magic and fantasy which even I, as a more mature reader *ahem*, found exciting and thoroughly engaging. I couldn’t help but like Twelve. She’s a renegade, a fighter and she’ll do what she thinks is right – no matter what the consequences. I loved her fire. Driven by the loss of her family and a thirst for revenge, she’s exactly the kind of hero I wanted to read about as a kid.

I really enjoyed how the author paired Twelve with characters who were her opposite and then dropped them into scenarios where their individual strengths shone. Enabling the characters to see the best in their counterparts. I enjoyed watching Twelve slowly thaw towards the other characters in the book. Realising over time that the people she disliked the most could, in fact, become friends. There are some truly wonderful twists along the way which I didn’t see coming. Twelve, alongside Dog, the magical, invincible guardian of the Hunting Lodge meet a host of well-drawn magical creatures in the forest who are out to put an end to their quest.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest is an exciting, tension filled read which my daughter and I both loved. This thrilling middle grade fantasy whisks its readers away to another world, full of magical creatures and dark delights. Wonderful characters, brilliant twists and some very impressive world building with a strong female lead at the helm. Absolutely marvellous and we can’t wait to catch up with Twelve again soon 🔥. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest by Aisling Fowler was published in the UK by HarperCollins Children’s Books on 30th September 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

ⓒ Claire Bradshaw

Aisling wishes that she had grown up in a magical, mountainous kingdom, but was actually raised in Surrey on a diet of books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her early ‘adventure’ stories involved surprisingly little action and her first novel (3 pages long) was politely declined by publishers at age 11. After earning a BSc in Biology and working as a support worker and then a nurse, the idea for her debut novel, Fireborn, came to her as she moved back and forth between London and the US. Now based in Hackney, when she is not reading or writing, Aisling loves cooking and plotting adventures (for herself as well as her fictional characters). Fireborn will be published by HarperCollins in 2021.

WWW Wednesday | 29th September 2021 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou
A small town in outback Australia wakes to an appalling crime.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

Vivid, pacy and almost dangerously atmospheric, The Stoning is the first in a new series of outback noir featuring DS Manolis, himself an outsider, and a good man in a world gone to hell.

What did you recently finish reading?

Survivor’s Guilt (DCI Matilda Darke #8) by Michael Wood
A TEAM TORN APART

Nine months ago DCI Matilda Darke survived a bullet to the head. The brutal attack claimed dozens of lives, including those she loved most, and the nightmares still plague her every waking thought.

A MEMORY SHE’D RATHER FORGET

Now, she’s ready to get back on the job. But a new terror awaits. A woman is found murdered and her wounds look eerily similar to several cold cases. Desperate to find a lead, DCI Darke and her team must face a terrifying truth: a serial killer is on the loose in Sheffield.

A THREAT CLOSE TO HOME

Matilda has led countless murder investigations before but the lingering emotional scars from her ordeal and the uneasiness within her once-tight team have left tensions high. As the body count rises, Matilda realises that this might just be where it all ends.

The brand new instalment in the DCI Matilda Darke series will leave you on the edge of your seat. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Kathy Reichs and Peter James.

What do you think you’ll read next?

On the Edge by Jane Jesmond
A FAST-PACED, TWISTY THRILLER WITH ECHOES OF DAPHNE DU MAURIER

Jen Shaw has climbed all her life: daring ascents of sheer rock faces, crumbling buildings, cranes – the riskier the better. Both her work and personal life revolved around climbing, and the adrenaline high it gave her. Until she went too far and hurt the people she cares about. So she’s given it all up now. Honestly, she has. And she’s checked herself into a rehab centre to prove it.

Yet, when Jen awakens to find herself drugged and dangling off the local lighthouse during a wild storm less than twenty-four hours after a ‘family emergency’ takes her home to Cornwall, she needs all her skill to battle her way to safety.

Has Jen fallen back into her old risky ways, or is there a more sinister explanation hidden in her hometown? Only when she has navigated her fragmented memories and faced her troubled past will she be able to piece together what happened – and trust herself to fix it.

#BookReview: Come With Me by Ronald Malfi @TitanBooks @Sarah_Mather_15 #ComeWithMe #damppebbles

“Aaron Decker’s life changes one December morning when his wife Allison is killed. Haunted by her absence—and her ghost—Aaron goes through her belongings, where he finds a receipt for a motel room in another part of the country. Piloted by grief and an increasing sense of curiosity, Aaron embarks on a journey to discover what Allison had been doing in the weeks prior to her death.

Yet Aaron is unprepared to discover the dark secrets Allison kept, the death and horror that make up the tapestry of her hidden life. And with each dark secret revealed, Aaron becomes more and more consumed by his obsession to learn the terrifying truth about the woman who had been his wife, even if it puts his own life at risk.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Come With Me by Ronald Malfi. Come With Me was published by Titan Books on 20th July 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Come With Me which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sarah at Titan Books for sending me a digital copy.

I saw this book mentioned several times on social media and was instantly intrigued. Then a well respected blogger friend whose opinion I really trust said it was a BRILLIANT novel – creepy cool and hugely evocative (thanks Liz!). I didn’t need any more encouragement. That was all it took. I knew I had to read Come With Me.

Aaron Decker waves goodbye to his wife one morning never to see her alive again. Grief consumes him. He struggles to go on without Allison, the love of his life. But he knows he must move forward. Going through her belongings, he discovers a receipt for a motel miles away from home. Discovering what Allison was doing in a different part of the country whilst he, himself, was away from home becomes his one focus. But what Aaron discovers lifts the lid on Allison’s life, revealing shocking things he never knew about the woman he loved and putting him in terrible danger…

I loved Come With Me and read it in two sittings. Malfi’s writing and characters really grabbed my attention and I was loathe to put the book down for any length of time. It’s a beautifully written, haunting mystery which gave me chills. I couldn’t get enough of it. Helped by the fact that I may have fallen a little bit in love with Aaron who is the most compelling character I’ve come across in a long time. Aaron’s battle against his own grief and his quest to discover Allison’s secrets ensured I was glued to the book from start to finish. And every new discovery was followed by a sharp intake of breath. Fully immersive and completely bewitching.

Aaron’s grief is palpable – a living, breathing thing. As realisation hits, as Aaron discovers that perhaps he didn’t know his wife as well as he thought, that she was actively keeping devastating secrets from him, my heart broke for a character I had come to care about. Aaron’s travels take him across the country where he meets a strong cast of supporting characters, all of whom were fully formed and memorable, adding something significant to this unforgettable story.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Come With Me is an emotional, edgy and dark read which this reader devoured with glee. It ticked so many boxes for me and I struggled to be parted from it, needing to find out how things would turn out for Aaron. As for the ending, it blew my mind and made a book I was really enjoying hit new heady heights. A memorable story the reader can truly invest in. Perfectly pitched and expertly written. Mr Malfi, you have a new fan. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Come With Me. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi was published in the UK by Titan Books on 20th July 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Ronald Damien MalfiRonald Malfi is the award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and his novel Floating Staircase was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland and tweets at @RonaldMalfi

#BookReview: She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge @PenguinUKBooks #SheLiesInWait #damppebbles

“Seven teenagers went down to the woods. Only six came back . . .

30 years later, a body is discovered.

DCI Sheens already knows what’s waiting for him – Aurora Jackson, found at last.

What he doesn’t already know is that it’s murder.

All six witnesses insist on their innocence, but DCI Sheens is sure one of them is lying.

But who?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge. She Lies in Wait was published by Penguin Books in all formats on 12th December 2019. I chose to read and review a free ARC of She Lies in Wait which has in no way influenced my review.

She Lies in Wait is a book I have been wanting to read for a while now. When it was first published, it was HUGE and I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the brilliant reviews from fellow readers and bloggers. This is the author’s debut novel but it feels so accomplished, it’s hard to believe that’s the case! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting DCI Sheens and I’ve already added the next book in the series, Watching from the Dark, to my terrifying TBR.

When the remains of a body are found in Brinken Wood, DCI Jonah Sheens knows exactly who they belong to. It’s no surprise when his suspicions are confirmed and a thirty-year-old cold case comes bursting into the present day. Sheens was a junior officer when fourteen-year-old Aurora Jackson disappeared whilst on a camping trip with her older sister and her sister’s friends. Despite searching, Aurora was never found. Now it’s down to Sheens and his team to unearth more skeletons, pick apart a close group of friends and find out exactly what happened to Aurora that night in the woods thirty years ago…

Told in the past and the present, this beautifully written literary crime novel was an absolute joy to lose myself in. I adored Sheens and found him very intriguing. I think that’s the reason, along with the author’s accomplished storytelling, that I’m so keen to read the second book in this series. Sheens is of course supported by a group of well-defined supporting characters who all add something to the story.

As the eye of the investigation is turned once again on the group of friends, they close ranks. A great deal of time has passed since Aurora’s disappearance. Memories have faded, truths have been rewritten. Instead of being the self-obsessed teenagers they once were, they’re now self-obsessed and influential adults. Sheens and the team have their work cut out trying to solve the mystery and finally give closure to Aurora’s grieving family.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. She Lies in Wait is a well-written and well-executed slow-burn mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m looking forward to being reunited with Sheens and the team again soon. A great start to what promises to be a fantastic series. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of She Lies in Wait. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 12th December 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Gytha Lodge is a multi-award-winning playwright, novelist and writer for video games and screen. She is also a single parent who blogs about the ridiculousness of bringing up a mega-nerd small boy.

She has a profound addiction to tea, crosswords and awful puns. When not writing, she heads up a copywriting team at a global translation firm, where she generally tries to keep all the video-game writing to herself.

She studied English at Cambridge, where she became known quite quickly for her brand of twisty, dark yet entertaining drama. She later took the Creative Writing MA at UEA.

She has signed with Penguin Random House worldwide for the first three books in her crime series featuring DCI Jonah Sheens.

WWW Wednesday | 22nd September 2021 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell
If you open your door to the Midnight Man, hide with a candle wherever you can. Try not to scream as he draws near, because one of you won’t be leaving here…

On Halloween night in Slayton, five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game. They write their names on a piece of paper and prick their fingers to soak it in blood. At exactly midnight they knock on the door twenty-two times – they have invited the Midnight Man in.

It was supposed to be a game, but only four girls come home.

Detective Sarah Noble has just returned to the force, and no one knows more about Blackhall Manor than her. It’s a case that will take Sarah back to everything she’s been running from, and shake her to the core.

Will she be ready to meet the Midnight Man?

What did you recently finish reading?

The Coven by Lizzie Fry
Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Survivor’s Guilt (DCI Matilda Darke #8) by Michael Wood
A TEAM TORN APART

Nine months ago DCI Matilda Darke survived a bullet to the head. The brutal attack claimed dozens of lives, including those she loved most, and the nightmares still plague her every waking thought.

A MEMORY SHE’D RATHER FORGET

Now, she’s ready to get back on the job. But a new terror awaits. A woman is found murdered and her wounds look eerily similar to several cold cases. Desperate to find a lead, DCI Darke and her team must face a terrifying truth: a serial killer is on the loose in Sheffield.

A THREAT CLOSE TO HOME

Matilda has led countless murder investigations before but the lingering emotional scars from her ordeal and the uneasiness within her once-tight team have left tensions high. As the body count rises, Matilda realises that this might just be where it all ends.

The brand new instalment in the DCI Matilda Darke series will leave you on the edge of your seat. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Kathy Reichs and Peter James.

#BookReview: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian @HarvillSecker #NeverSawMeComing #damppebbles

“Meet Chloe. First-year student, ordinary, legging-wearing, girl next door…and highly intelligent diagnosed psychopath. Her hobbies include yogalates, parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman.

Chloe is part of a secret clinical study of young psychopaths run by the university’s Psychology Department. Most psychopaths aren’t criminals, but when a string of murders on campus causes upheaval, Chloe’s private vendetta is sidelined. Partnered with fellow study participants she can’t trust – and distracted by typical university life – Chloe has to walk the line between hunter and prey.

Never Saw Me coming is a sharp, electrifying and hugely entertaining thriller with an antiheroine who will work her manipulative magic on you.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian. Never Saw Me Coming was published by Harvill Secker on 9th September 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Never Saw Me Coming but that has in no way influenced my review.

A college with a secret group of psychopaths stalking the grounds. Yes please! I couldn’t resist the pull of this book. I tried for the sake of my TBR. The shelves are bowing under the weight of my physical copies and the Kindle screams at me every time I switch it on. But realistically, what harm could one more book do? Hmmm? Particularly as Never Saw Me Coming sounded SO GOOD!

Chloe Sevre is a first year student at John Adams University and a diagnosed psychopath. That’s OK though, she’s not the only one. In fact, she’s part of a secret study which counsels psychopaths and teaches them how to integrate seamlessly into society. After all, not all psychopaths are crazed killers! Chloe, however, has a personal vendetta which she must settle and the only way to do that is to destroy the person who wronged her. Everything was going to plan until a murder is reported on campus. Followed by a second. Someone is killing students. Putting her own plans to one side, Chloe joins forces with other students in the psychopath programme to find the killer. But is the killer a lot closer than they think…

Huge amounts of fun and highly entertaining. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and thoroughly enjoyed Never Saw Me Coming. Chloe is a bad-ass, kick-ass antihero and I became fully invested in her quickly. When someone starts killing off students, who do you blame? The psychopaths. But what if the psychopaths are the ones hunting the killer instead? And exactly how far can Chloe trust the other members of the study? They’re adept at cheating, they know how to lie. They have no empathy, no conscience. It could be any of them really! I loved the concept of the book and I loved how well it’s all put together. Alongside Chloe are Charles and Andre, who are also part of the study. Charles is more practiced at hiding his true self, whilst Andre isn’t who he says he is. I really liked both of these characters. Together with Chloe they’re a force to be reckoned with! Although the reader can never truly trust them…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Never Saw Me Coming is a highly readable, very enjoyable novel which left me with a big ol’ smile on my face. It’s exactly the kind of book I love to read – a different and imaginative spin on the norm – and I loved the time I spent with Chloe & Co. This campus based, character-driven mystery was a pleasure to read and I heartily recommend it to those looking for something original and refreshing. Recommended

I chose to read and review Never Saw Me Coming. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian was published in the UK by Harvill Secker on 9th September 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Vera KurianVera Kurian is a writer and psychologist living in Washington, DC. Her fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, the Pinch, and Southern California Review. You can find her online at verakurian.com or @vera_kurian on Twitter.

#BookReview: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones @TitanBooks #MyHeartisaChainsaw #damppebbles

“A gripping, bloody tribute to classic slasher cinema, final girls and our buried ghosts, combining Friday the 13th, the uncanny mastery of Shirley Jackson, and the razor wit of the Evil Dead.

The Jordan Peele of horror fiction turns his eye to classic slasher films: Jade is one class away from graduating high-school, but that’s one class she keeps failing local history. Dragged down by her past, her father and being an outsider, she’s composing her epic essay series to save her high-school diploma.

Jade’s topic? The unifying theory of slasher films. In her rapidly gentrifying rural lake town, Jade sees the pattern in recent events that only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror cinema could have prepared her for. And with the arrival of the Final Girl, Letha Mondragon, she’s convinced an irreversible sequence of events has been set into motion.

As tourists start to go missing, and the tension grows between her community and the celebrity newcomers building their mansions the other side of the Indian Lake, Jade prepares for the killer to rise. She dives deep into the town’s history, the tragic deaths than occurred at camp years ago, the missing tourists no one is even sure exist, and the murders starting to happen, searching for the answer.

As the small and peaceful town heads towards catastrophe, it all must come to a head on 4th July, when the town all gathers on the water, where luxury yachts compete with canoes and inflatables, and the final showdown between rich and poor, past and present, townsfolk and celebrities, slasher and Final Girl.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones. My Heart is a Chainsaw was published by Titan Books on 7th September 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of My Heart is a Chainsaw but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am addicted to slasher fiction. There’s no two ways about it. I am well and truly hooked on the idea, the concept and the execution (🤭). Books featuring a crazed serial killer, of this realm or…elsewhere…will always get my full, undivided attention. So my heart soared when I saw the latest book by Stephen Graham Jones. My Heart is a Chainsaw was an absolute must read for me, particularly as I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Final Girl by the same author (and I have The Only Good Indians waiting patiently for me on the TBR!).

Jade Daniels is the horror chick. She lives, breathes, dreams in horror movies. She loves all horror but slashers are her true obsession. Her knowledge is beyond encyclopaedic and it consumes every moment of her life. Which equips her perfectly to notice things happening in her small lake-side town that others may miss. Things which confirm, to Jade at least, that catastrophe is heading straight to Proofrock in the form of a slasher. Now all Jade has to do is convince everyone else before it’s too late…

You know when you read a book and it’s nothing like you expected it to be? That’s sort of where I am with My Heart is a Chainsaw. I really enjoyed the story, I adored Jade, the writing was powerful, chock-full of emotion and multi-layered. But I found it a little slow going to start with, which of course, isn’t a bad thing. Just unexpected having read another of the author’s books (which is actually a crazy thing for me to say as who writes the same book twice? That would be barmy!). My Heart is a Chainsaw is a true work of art though and it’s well worth picking up. I can’t imagine how long it took the author to write this novel – the care and attention, the precision, it all shines through.

Jade is a stones throw from failing high school so she composes a series of essays for her state history teacher, Mr Holmes, in return for extra credit. The subject matter is, of course, slasher movies which she intricately examines, pulling themes and explaining theories to her beleaguered teacher who is on the brink of retirement. These essays are a wonderful addition, informative and enlightening in their content. They run alongside Jade’s day to day dealings with the other residents of Proofrock and her investigation into what she believes is a certainty, the forthcoming slasher. I enjoyed the time I spent with Jade. I couldn’t help but like her. She’s the unpopular kid, the odd one who everyone keeps at a distance.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. My Heart is a Chainsaw is a beautifully written love letter to the slasher genre which I thoroughly enjoyed. I appreciated that the author has given his readers a chance to get to know Jade properly so you’re fully invested in the character as you approach the end of the book. The ending was sublime. Meticulous and so cleverly staged that I was fully in the moment, right by Jade’s side. I feel a little bereft now it’s all over but Jade will stay with me for some time to come. Gutsy, gruesome and utterly captivating. Emotional and really quite haunting. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of My Heart is a Chainsaw. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones was published in the UK by Titan Books on 7th September 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Stephen Graham JonesBorn and raised in Texas. In Boulder, Colorado now. Forty-nine. Blackfeet. Into werewolves and slashers, zombies and vampires, haunted houses and good stories. Would wear pirate shirts a lot if I could find them. And probably carry some kind of sword.

WWW Wednesday | 15th September 2021 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell
If you open your door to the Midnight Man, hide with a candle wherever you can. Try not to scream as he draws near, because one of you won’t be leaving here…

On Halloween night in Slayton, five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game. They write their names on a piece of paper and prick their fingers to soak it in blood. At exactly midnight they knock on the door twenty-two times – they have invited the Midnight Man in.

It was supposed to be a game, but only four girls come home.

Detective Sarah Noble has just returned to the force, and no one knows more about Blackhall Manor than her. It’s a case that will take Sarah back to everything she’s been running from, and shake her to the core.

Will she be ready to meet the Midnight Man?

What did you recently finish reading?

The Coven by Lizzie Fry
Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Survivor’s Guilt (DCI Matilda Darke #8) by Michael Wood
A TEAM TORN APART

Nine months ago DCI Matilda Darke survived a bullet to the head. The brutal attack claimed dozens of lives, including those she loved most, and the nightmares still plague her every waking thought.

A MEMORY SHE’D RATHER FORGET

Now, she’s ready to get back on the job. But a new terror awaits. A woman is found murdered and her wounds look eerily similar to several cold cases. Desperate to find a lead, DCI Darke and her team must face a terrifying truth: a serial killer is on the loose in Sheffield.

A THREAT CLOSE TO HOME

Matilda has led countless murder investigations before but the lingering emotional scars from her ordeal and the uneasiness within her once-tight team have left tensions high. As the body count rises, Matilda realises that this might just be where it all ends.

The brand new instalment in the DCI Matilda Darke series will leave you on the edge of your seat. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Kathy Reichs and Peter James.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing @MichaelJBooks @kalliereads #ForYourOwnGood #damppebbles

“Teddy Crutcher won Teacher of the Year at the prestigious Belmont Academy. Everyone thinks he’s brilliant.
Only you know the truth.

They all smile when he tells us his wife couldn’t be more proud.
But no-one has seen her in a while.

They’re impressed when he doesn’t let anything distract him – even the tragic death of a school parent.
Even when the whispers start, saying it was murder.

You’re sure Teddy is hiding something about what happened that day.

You’re sure you can prove it.

But you didn’t stop to think that when it comes to catching a killer, there’s no place more dangerous than just one step behind . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the For Your Own Good blog tour and sharing my review. For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing was published by Michael Joseph Books in hardcover, audio and digital formats on 19th August 2021 with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of For Your Own Good but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Kallie at Michael Joseph Books for sending me a finished copy.

Oh. My. Word! I read Downing’s debut, My Lovely Wife, back in 2019 and really enjoyed it. At the time, I made a note to read more of this author’s work as it was published but due to life, the universe and everything my plans didn’t quite come to fruition. However, based on my experience of For Your Own Good I will be making this author’s books a high priority purchase in future. I loved this dark and thrilling novel!

Teacher, Teddy Crutcher, is proud to be part of the prestigious Belmont Academy family. His students are very important to him and he will do everything he can to teach them accordingly, including a few ‘life lessons’ which aren’t on the syllabus. He feels it’s his duty to mould his students into intelligent, personable young adults and he’s prepared to work hard to make that happen. Being Teacher of the Year comes with many responsibilities after all. When one of the parents dies suddenly at a school event, all eyes turn to Belmont. Whispers of murder echo throughout the school halls and the arrival of the police only confirm the faculty’s worse suspicions….

Oh Teddy, how dark and twisted can one character be!? I think the answer to that is ‘very’ and I loved every darn second of it! There was something about For Your Own Good which immediately captured my full attention. I believe it was the hold Teddy immediately has over the reader. You can tell something isn’t ‘quite’ right here but it’s only a teeny tiny glimpse into what is to come! When the reader first meets Teddy he’s meeting with one of his student’s parents. Teddy controls and manipulates the meeting with such a deft hand that I immediately wanted more.  I powered through this book, savouring every twist and turn as the author laid Teddy’s story before me. I was smitten – with the style of writing, with the setting and the plot, but most of all with the fully formed characters and the darkness within.

Teddy isn’t the only star of the show in For Your Own Good. He’s surrounded by a strong supporting cast who all add to the story. Zack Ward, the put-upon high achiever who Crutcher has it in for. Sonia Benjamin, who rightly feels she should have been Teacher of the Year and is highly suspicious of Mr Crutcher for that and other reasons. Fallon Knight, whose academic career was floored after Teddy decided to be truthful in his recommendation and whose life will never reach the heady heights she expected it to. I loved every single one of them but in different ways. Absolutely flipping marvellous!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Without a doubt. I LOVED For Your Own Good and if I’m honest, I may have fallen a little in love with Teddy. Which I’m sure doesn’t paint me in the best light but hey ho! I adored spending time with Downing’s characters, I could happily have read another 500 pages of Teddy’s nefarious goings on (and it’s not a short book at 400 pages for the hardcover!). For Your Own Good was a dark and devious joy to read and I can see it featuring on my top books of the year list in December. Totally absorbing, exactly the type of book I love to lose myself in. I will be shouting about this one for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of For Your Own Good. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 19th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Samantha Downing is the author of the bestselling My Lovely Wife, nominated for Edgar, ITW, Macavity, and CWA awards. Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films have partnered to produce a feature film based on the novel. Her second book, He Started It, was released in 2020 and became an instant international bestseller.

For Your Own Good was released on July 20, 2021. It has been optioned by Robert Downey Jr. and Greg Berlanti for HBO Max.