#BookReview: The Islanders by S.V. Leonard @CaneloCrime #TheIslanders #damppebbles

The Islanders coverHer dream escape is about to become a nightmare…

Kimberley King has spent the last five years trying to outrun the reason she left the police force. Her life is a mess and she’s desperate for change. So when she is randomly selected for the new series of the hit show LoveWrecked, she can’t pass up the chance to win the £100,000 prize. All Kimberley needs to do is couple up with one of her fellow contestants, win the infamous LoveWrecked challenges, and she will have enough cash for a fresh start.

But the island isn’t the paradise she was promised and within hours, one of the contestants is dead. Then the announcement comes: one of the islanders is a murderer and Kimberley must find out who, live on television. For every hour it takes her, one more person will die.

The game is rigged, everyone is hiding secrets, and time is running out…

An addictive and unputdownable crime thriller, perfect for fans of Lucy Foley and T.M. Logan.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of a cracking debut – The Islanders by S.V. Leonard. The Islanders was published by Canelo Crime in paperback and digital formats on 11th March 2021. I chose to read a free eARC of The Islanders but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh.My.Gosh! This book 😍. As soon as I laid eyes on The Islanders I knew I was going to read it, and read it soon. Sometimes, as a reader, you pick up a book and you feel it was written for you. That’s how I felt about this particular novel. I LOVE the premise. I’m a huge fan of a certain book by a certain legendary author and there are fabulous little nods here and there to that great piece of crime fiction. I’ve never watched Love Island though, which I believe is the other influence. Other lust infused dating shows, perhaps 😳. But not Love Island.

Kimberley King’s life has taken a downturn. Following an incident which continues to haunt her, she waved goodbye to the police force, her friends and colleagues, and started a new life as a barmaid. And now she’s been sacked for turning up late repeatedly. Everything is wrong, nothing is right. Until a talent scout from the hugely popular dating show LoveWrecked turns up out of the blue and asks her to take part in the latest series. It’s going to be LoveWrecked‘s greatest ever season after being absent for five long years. And the contestants will all be chosen at random to mix things up a little! Kimberley really needs the £100,000 prize so reluctantly agrees. Following the contestants’ arrival on the island paradise, after a night of heavy drinking, they awaken to find one of their number dead. It’s Kimberley’s job, as an ex-police officer, to find out who the killer is. But the clock is ticking. Failure to find the murderer will result in another islander being killed, every hour, on the hour, until Kimberley makes her denouement. It’s a race against time and the World is watching…

Marvellous stuff! This book didn’t need to try very hard to get me hooked. It was eminently readable, pulling me along for a rip roaring ride full of delightful reveals and cleverly placed shockers. OK, it may be a little far-fetched, but who the flip actually cares?! It was 100% entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kimberley King is a desperate women, yes, but the thought of spending the Summer on a secluded Greek island, sunning yourself, eating delicious food and drinking copious amounts of wine would certainly appeal to me at the moment as well. Not too sure about the ‘famous LoveWrecked challenges’ or the TV cameras following you everywhere you go though! Kim isn’t the most likeable character, and I wanted to give her a good shake at one point, but I did find myself rooting for her. The other characters are an interesting bunch. I got really excited at the start of the book as the reader is told there are twenty LoveWrecked contestants being lined up. Knowing what was to come, I was in my element – looking forward to what initially promised to be a bit of a blood bath (yes, I’m quite peculiar it seems!). But only five contestants actually make it to the island (and a couple of crew) before things start to go very, very wrong. Still, that probably makes the book more palatable for more normal readers and a lot more manageable.

I was completely smitten with the plot of The Islanders. Hook, line and sinker. It’s paced beautifully with something always going on to keep the intrigue levels high. I was also keen to see who would get the chop (quite literally) from the show next. Interestingly, my guess as to whodunit always seemed to be the next person to die! By the time I approached the end of the book, I was completely clueless. So when the reveal came, their identity was a surprise. However, the killer’s motivation was not.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Islanders is a fantastically written, very readable, totally engrossing debut which I devoured with glee. This book made my dark heart happy and that’s all you can ask really. It’s a compelling page-turner which hooks the reader in with ease and keeps you transfixed from start to finish. Recommended.

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

The Islanders by S.V. Leonard was published in the UK by Canelo Crime on 11th March 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesFoylesGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

about-the-author3

SV LeonardS.V. Leonard grew up in the little coastal town of Formby, a suburb of Liverpool. She studied Classics at Oxford University and has been lucky enough to live in Australia, Poland, and Malaysia. She is now based in London. When not writing, she can be found breaking out of escape rooms; doing historical walking tours of London; or drinking wine.

#BookReview: The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky @EMTeenFiction #TheLastGirl #damppebbles

“Scream meets Gossip Girl with a dash of One of Us is Lying!

When it comes to horror movies, the rules are clear:
– Avoid abandoned buildings, warehouses, and cabins at all times.
– Stay together: don’t split up, not even just to “check something out.…
– If there’s a murderer on the loose, do NOT make out with anyone …

New girl Rachel Chavez turns to horror movies for comfort, preferring them to the bored rich kids of her fancy New York High School. But then Rachel is recruited by the Mary Shelley Club, a mysterious student club that sets up terrifying Fear Tests; elaborate pranks inspired by urban legends and horror movies.

But when a sinister masked figure appears, Rachel realises that her past has caught up with her. It’s time for the ultimate prank to play out …”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky. The Last Girl was published by Electric Monkey yesterday (that’s Thursday 15th April 2021) and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Last Girl but that has in no way influenced my review.

Everything about this book called to me. I’m a huge fan of the Final Girl trope and like to dabble in the odd spot of horror fiction every now and again (OK, it’s fairly often!). So as soon as I saw that fabulous blood splattered, yellow cover and read the blurb, I knew I had to read The Last Girl. Yes, I may be a smidge out of the books YA age range but so flippin’ what! I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining homage to horror movies.

Rachel Chavez has a secret. Something terrifying happened to her and she lives with the trauma and the memories every day. Turning to horror movies for comfort she struggles to come to terms with what she did that fateful night one year ago. Following a move from Long Island to an exclusive private school in Manhattan, Rachel struggles to adjust to her new surroundings. There’s no denying it, she’s the new girl at school and just doesn’t fit in. She is neither privileged nor popular and only there because her mother is on the staff. But she finds a friend in Saundra who is determined to help her get to know a few people and drags Rachel unwittingly along to every party going. At one such party Rachel sees something she perhaps shouldn’t and is introduced to The Mary Shelley Club: a group of ill-fitting teens who like to watch horror movies and test whether the horror tropes they love so much can actually play out in real life by staging dramatic and terrifying pranks they like to call Fear Tests. But it soon becomes clear that Rachel can’t run from her past….

If you’re a horror movie fan this is a must read! You will love the references and the discussions which take place between the characters. I’ve seen the grand total of zero horror movies [I kid you not! I was present once in the room when Scream played out on the TV – there was another teen slasher about Valentine’s Day too but I can’t remember what that was called!] and I absolutely devoured it. I may not have seen the movies but I’m familiar with many of the characters and what happens in the more popular films. For the more obscure references Google was my friend!

The Last Girl is a terrific book. It didn’t take me long to warm to Rachel who I thought, despite what she had gone through (and her rather intense horror movie obsession), was a pretty normal, likeable kid. The other characters in the book are all very well drawn, particularly the members of the Mary Shelley Club – Felicity, Freddie, Bram & Thayer – who all had their own strong, identifiable personalities and idiosyncrasies. Some of the kids were popular, others weren’t. Some were at the school as part of a scholarship, others were there because Mummy and Daddy were part of the New York elite. Despite being quite tightknit during meetings, outside they pretended not to know each other and I really liked that. It added to the whole mystical exclusive club vibe the author does so well. The themes of ‘fitting in’ and feeling the need to belong run strong through this novel. As someone who perhaps didn’t always fit, I felt I could relate to Rachel’s awkwardness at times.

However, I have to say as a responsible, *ahem* mature adult, the idea of the Mary Shelley Club is a terrible one (bloody marvellous as a piece of fiction – truly terrible in real life). But I couldn’t help but enjoy every moment of it which probably makes me an awful human being! I loved seeing how the club re-enacted the popular tropes. The effort they put in to their ‘pranks’ was true dedication to the cause.  I’m a keen amateur sleuth – regular readers of damppebbles may already know this – but this is the first book in a while where I’ve not set out to find out ‘whodunit’. I just went with the flow of the story without trying to second guess what was going to happen next and why. And I loved where this novel took me. Whilst the big reveal didn’t come as a huge surprise there were aspects of it which I found quite shocking. I don’t think I’m quite over it yet!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Last Girl was a thoroughly entertaining read. I was expecting a full-on teen slasher but what I got was a clever mystery laden with great horror movie references featuring a group of teens I actually started to care about, despite their obsession with fear and their insatiable need to terrorise people. A well-written page turner. A story that stuck its meat hooks into me from early on and kept me riveted from start to finish. I would happily read more from this author and will be on the look out for future releases. Recommended

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

The Last Girl (aka as The Mary Shelley Club) by Goldy Moldavsky was published in the UK by Electric Monkey on 15th April 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Goldy Moldavsky was born in Lima, Peru, and grew up in Brooklyn, where she still lives. Her novels include the New York Times bestseller, KILL THE BOY BAND, NO GOOD DEED, and the upcoming THE MARY SHELLEY CLUB (Henry Holt Books, 2021); her love of 80s movies, 90s boy bands, and horror flicks hugely influences her work. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @goldywrites.

#BookReview: Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner @BloomsburyRaven #GreenwichPark #damppebbles

“Helen has it all…

Daniel is the perfect husband.
Rory is the perfect brother.
Serena is the perfect sister-in-law.

And Rachel? Rachel is the perfect nightmare.

When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she is expecting her loving architect husband to arrive soon after, along with her confident, charming brother Rory and his pregnant wife, the effortlessly beautiful Serena. What she is not expecting is Rachel.

Extroverted, brash, unsettling single mother-to-be Rachel, who just wants to be Helen’s friend. Who just wants to get know Helen and her friends and her family. Who just wants to know everything about them. Every little secret.

Masterfully plotted and utterly addictive, Greenwich Park is a dark, compelling look at motherhood, friendships, privilege and the secrets we keep to protect ourselves.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner. Greenwich Park is published today (that’s Thursday 15th April 2021) by Raven Books and is available in hardcover and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of Greenwich Park but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Raven Books for sending me a copy of the book.

Greenwich Park is a book which is impossible to resist. I mean, have you SEEN that cover with the stark white and vivid green?! Gorgeous. And then you have the blurb which intrigues the reader, piquing your interest to the point where you have to find out more. I was looking forward to reading this one A LOT, particularly as it’s one of Raven Books lead titles for the year. And oh boy, it’s a creeping, compelling and ultimately satisfying read which I could not put down. The debut authors are absolutely smashing it this year!

Helen has the perfect life. Daniel, her architect husband, adores her, they live in a beautiful house in exclusive Greenwich Park and they’re expecting their first baby after years of tragedy. Life is good and quite literally perfect in every way. So when Helen decides to book herself, Daniel, Helen’s brother, Rory and his pregnant wife, Serena, into an NCT class, Helen is full of hope and excitement. But they all cancel at the last minute leaving poor Helen alone. That is until single mum-to-be Rachel arrives and takes an instant shine to lonely Helen. Rachel is over the top, brash and domineering. She’s the opposite of Helen in every way. But Helen is far too polite, far too British to get rid of Rachel. Before long, Rachel worms her way into Helen’s perfect life and wants to know everything about her marriage to Daniel, her friends and her family. And she will stop at nothing to discover every little secret….

I was completely drawn into this book from the very start. Helen is an interesting character if not a little needy and naïve in her approach to life. She’s also quite frustrating in her pursuit of perfection (a little smug at times perhaps?) and how generally nice she is. But I kind of liked her, in a strange sort of way. She’s certainly not the type of character who normally appeals to me – I like a darker edge – but she’s so well written that I couldn’t help but warm to her. Rachel has something mysterious and dark about her which I really liked. I couldn’t work out her motives for worming her way into Helen’s life which kept me turning the pages, looking for that elusive clue. One aspect of Rachel felt a little obvious but it all added to the big question – WHY was she doing this to sweet, naïve Helen?!

The ending of Greenwich Park is one of the most satisfying, most fitting endings I’ve read for some time in a book, and I loved it. You know those ‘memorable last lines in a book’ lists you sometimes see?  THIS book needs to be on that list. It was perfect and I closed the back cover with a smile on my face. The author does an excellent job of tricking the reader into thinking that’s it, story over. But that’s not the case. There’s a more juicy detail to be told and I thoroughly enjoyed the reveal. Superbly done!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Greenwich Park is a fantastic debut from an author to watch. I was hooked by Helen and Rachel’s story, desperate to find out the reasons behind Rachel’s actions. I found Greenwich Park to be a very addictive and compelling page turner with a deliciously dark edge. A fantastic story full of well-written characters which piqued my interest from the outset and kept me hooked until the hugely satisfying ending. Highly recommended.

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

Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner was published in the UK by Raven Books on 15th April 2021 and is available in hardcover 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 |

Katherine is a London-based author and journalist. She studied History at Cambridge University, graduating with a First,  then completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Newspaper Journalism. Since then she has been working as an investigative reporter and latterly an editor. Her work has been published in many national papers, and she most recently worked at The Times, where she was the joint Head of News.

While working as an undercover reporter, Katherine won the Cudlipp Award for public interest journalism and was nominated for a string of others. She was also commended by a committee of MPs for ‘the highest standards of ethical investigative reporting.’

Katherine was inspired to write her debut novel about the complexity of female friendships after attending NCT classes when pregnant, and her experience of sudden intimacy with complete strangers. She spent her maternity leave juggling looking after her newborn daughter with completing the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, with her final manuscript attracting the interest of sixteen different literary agents.

Katherine lives in Hackney, East London, where she grew up, with her husband and two daughters. Her favourite things (other than books) include tea, the north Cornish coast, France (especially Provence), yoga, the rightmove app, daytime property programmes (especially Love it or List it with Kirsty and Phil), walking, open fires, red wine and ravioli.

#BookReview: Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone #Mirrorland #damppebbles

“The most dangerous stories are the ones we tell ourselves…

No. 36 Westeryk Road: an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A place of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under the house that is extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?

Now in her thirties, Cat has turned her back on her past. But when she receives news that one sunny morning, El left harbour in her sailboat and never came back, she is forced to return to Westeryk Road; to re-enter a forgotten world of lies, betrayal and danger.

Because El had a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets. And to discover the truth, Cat must first confront the reality of her childhood – a childhood that wasn’t nearly as idyllic as she remembers…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone. Mirrorland was published last week (on Thursday 1st April 2021) by The Borough Press and is available in audio and digital formats with the hardcover to follow later this month and the paperback in October. I chose to read a free eARC of Mirrorland but that has in no way influenced my review.

This book has so much appeal. I couldn’t resist that gorgeous cover and the intriguing blurb. However, once I made a start on Mirrorland, I began to question whether I was the right reader for this book. It’s incredibly rare that I DNF a book once I’ve started, and I really wanted to like Mirrorland, so I persevered. And oh my gosh, I’m so glad I did. Otherwise I would have missed out on one heck of a twisted story!

Identical mirror twins, Ellice and Catriona, have lost touch with each other as the years pass. Catriona lives in the US and doesn’t speak to Ellice, who lives in the family home on the outskirts of Edinburgh. But then Ellice goes missing. She sailed her boat from the harbour on the Firth of Forth and hasn’t been seen since. Which prompts Catriona’s immediate return to her home town. The search for Ellice is in vain. She’s disappeared without trace. That is until Catriona starts to receive strange, anonymous messages. A treasure hunt no less! It’s time for Catriona to confront her past, to recall memories which she had long since buried and find out what has happened to her sister…

So what was it about Mirrorland that made me question whether I was the right reader? A lack of imagination on my part is the most honest answer I think. The book is written in the past – when the twins were young children – and the present. It was the ‘past’ sections I struggled with as the girls have created a magical world within 36 Westeryk Road which, to a child’s mind, makes perfect sense. These scenes are fantastical, abstract, full of the things that add to the wonderment of childhood (pirates, the tooth fairy, witches, clowns *shudder at the clowns*). But I couldn’t understand their placement, to an extent, and why the author was spending so much time building a picture of the twins playing together, as children do. As you progress through the book it all makes perfect sense but at the time, I just wanted to get to the juicy stuff; the lies, betrayal and danger!

There is a good reason for these scenes and I can see that now with hindsight. It’s all part of the author building her characters and their story. I wish I had appreciated it more at the time.

Catriona is a fascinating character who I can’t claim to have liked – she does some pretty awful things – but I could empathise with her to a degree. Other characters in the book are well-written. My favourite character was DI Kate Rafiq who is tasked with discovering what happened to Ellice, alongside DS Logan. What a formidable team they made! I loved that Rafiq was there for Catriona when she was needed the most.

The plot has plenty of twists and turns, many of which I didn’t see coming and was left reeling after their reveal. The more you dig, the darker things become and I adored that. It’s a complex story which you need to dedicate time to – to savour what the author is sharing with the reader. It’s a beautiful piece of fiction and it needs to be appreciated.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Mirrorland is a deliciously dark debut. Its gothic tones are done to perfection with the creepy old house on Westeryk Road. I became completely invested in finding out the truth and my heart went out to Catriona as she made shocking discovery after shocking discovery. It’s a devilishly twisted tale and I’m so glad I read it. Recommended.

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

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone was published in the UK by The Borough Press on 1st April 2021 and is available in digital and audio 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 |

Scottish writer Carole Johnstone’s debut novel, Mirrorland, will be published in spring 2021 by Borough Press/HarperCollins in the UK and Commonwealth and by Scribner/Simon & Schuster in North America.

Her award-winning short fiction has been reprinted in many annual ‘Best Of’ anthologies in the UK and the US. She has been published by Titan Books, Tor Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and PS Publishing, and has written Sherlock Holmes stories for Constable & Robinson and Running Press.

Carole is represented by Hellie Ogden at Janklow & Nesbit UK and Allison Hunter at Janklow & Nesbit (US).

More information on the author can be found at carolejohnstone.com

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Last Seen by Joy Kluver @bookouture #BooksonTour #LastSeen #damppebbles

Last-Seen-KindleA little girl is missing from under her mother’s nose. She’ll be scared and vulnerable – if she’s still alive. But no one is helping us search. No one wants to give us information. No one even seems surprised. What’s going on?

Detective Bernadette Noel came to this quiet rural corner of south-west England from London to lie low after a high-profile prosecution led to death threats against her family. But she has barely settled in when the call comes. A woman’s voice, shrill with terror and thick with tears: ‘Help – it’s my daughter, Molly – I only had my back turned for a minute… She’s gone!’

A child abduction is about as far from lying low as it gets, and her boss wants to assign a different detective. But there’s no way Bernie’s not taking the case – she can’t miss this chance to prove herself.

Five-year-old Molly Reynolds has been snatched from the playground in the village where she lives. Normally in cases like this the community is an asset – eager to help search and full of local knowledge. But although Molly’s mother Jessica is in anguish, the other villagers don’t seem to want to know.

As details emerge, Bernie discovers a possible link to a shocking crime that has never been solved, and which the locals have never forgotten. But what exactly is the connection to Molly’s abduction? Cracking a cold case is the only way to find out – and meanwhile time is running out for Molly.

A dark and compelling crime thriller that will have you reading late into the night. If you like Val McDermid, D.S. Butler or Angela Marsons, you’ll love Joy Kluver.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year with you – Last Seen by Joy Kluver. Last Seen was published on 26th March 2021 by Bookouture and is available in paperback, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Last Seen but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Bookouture for an early copy and asking me to be part of the blog tour.

Last Seen is Kluver’s debut novel and what a cracking start it is! It was a joy to meet DI Bernadette (Bernie) Noel – new to the area and newly promoted – as she took on her first case with Wiltshire Police, the desperate search for a missing five-year-old child. This is a very assured debut from an author to watch!

Shy and sensitive Molly Reynolds has been warned about stranger danger by the adults in her life. But that doesn’t stop her from being snatched from the local park, mere feet from her mother’s turned back. New to Wiltshire Police, DI Bernie Noel, is tasked with finding the girl and reuniting her with her family. But Bernie’s search is hampered at every turn by the folk of Ottersfield who seem uncaring, uninterested and reluctant to take time out of their busy schedules to help find the child. Why would a village react like that? Bernie and the team are at a loss. Every lead turns out to be a dead end. Until Bernie discovers the disappearance of another child twenty-five years earlier. Are the two cases connected and will Bernie find Molly in time…?

I really liked DI Noel who came across as a very relatable, very real character. Not only has Bernie got a challenging case on her hands but the author hints throughout the book of a troubled past which intrigued me. There are references to Bernie’s life in London and a case which still visibly haunts her. And all of this on top of the search for little Molly! The reader also gets to discover more about Bernie’s family which isn’t all sunshine and rainbows (pretty normal then!). These well-plotted layers add up to a very likeable new detective who I’m looking forward to spending more time with in the future.

The characters who form Bernie’s team are also well-written and I felt they all contributed to the story. DS Kerry Allen has a heart of gold but won’t take cr@p from anyone. Matt Taylor is a young, ambitious detective constable who personally, I liked the most. I hope he features in future books. Although he’s not officially part of the team (he should be!), Sergeant Alan Turner was just wonderful! And lastly, we have DS Dougie Anderson who I couldn’t work out (I don’t think I was the only one!). He seemed totally obnoxious one minute, only to turn sweetness and light the next! I think DI Noel and DS Anderson have a very interesting future ahead of them, although fingers crossed it’s not a romantic one! 

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Last Seen is a compelling read featuring an intriguing new detective. I loved the secrets, the deceit and the small town apathy Bernie finds in Otterfield. Normally, when a child goes missing it’s all hands to the pumps, but not in this case and the reasons behind the residents complete lack of interest kept me turning the pages. It’s a great start to a new series and I’m excited to see what is in store next for DI Noel and the team. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Last Seen. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Last Seen by Joy Kluver was published on 26th March 2021 and is available in paperback, digital and audio 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.ukamazon.comApple BooksKoboGoogle BooksGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Last Seen - BT Poster

about-the-author3

joy kluverJoy Kluver has been an avid reader and writer since childhood. More recently she’s been escaping the madness of motherhood by turning her hand to crime novels. A book blogger, she’s also part of the First Monday Crime team and if you’ve been to any of their events it’s likely you’ve eaten one of her cookies. She also organises author talks for her local library. Joy lives in SW London with her husband and three children. ‘Last Seen’ is her debut novel and the first book in the DI Bernadette Noel series.

Joy is represented by Anne Williams at the Kate Horden Literary Agency.

#BookReview: Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #EveryVowYouBreak #damppebbles

“After a whirlwind, fairytale romance, Abigail Baskin marries freshly-minted Silicon Valley millionaire Bruce Lamb.

For their honeymoon, he whisks her away to an exclusive retreat at a friend’s resort off the Maine coast on Heart Pond Island.

But once there, Abigail’s perfect new life threatens to crash down around her as she recognises one of their fellow guests as the good looking, charismatic stranger who weeks earlier had seduced her at her own Bachelorette party…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson. Every Vow You Break is published today (that’s Thursday 18th March 2021) by Faber Books and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Every Vow You Break but that has in no way influenced my review.

I LOVE Peter Swanson’s novels. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them! He’s a favourite author of mine and picking up his latest release for the first time is one of the highlights of my year. His books are chock full of delicious suspense and always have a wicked twist in their tale. I heartily recommend ALL of his books – particularly The Kind Worth Killing and the absolutely stunning Rules for Perfect Murders which made it onto my ‘best books EVER’ list after being published last year.

Abigail Baskin is getting married! She’s all loved up (sort of) and heading off to California for her hen party (Bachelorette party for any US readers!) with a group of friends to let her hair down and wave goodbye to singledom. Following a night of delicious food and good wine, Abigail starts to chat with Scottie, a good-looking and charming divorcee. One thing leads to another, the wine flows and they end up in bed together. Abigail realises her mistake and hurries home to husband-to-be, Bruce, wracked with guilt, determined to forget it ever happened and make their marriage work. Until she starts to see Scottie everywhere she turns; in New York, at her wedding and most shockingly of all, Scottie is a fellow guest at the exclusive resort Bruce has chosen as their honeymoon destination. Why is Scottie following Abigail? What’s his agenda and will his presence on Heart Pond Island result in Abigail’s perfect life crashing down around her…?

This is a fantastic slow burn suspense novel which I found very readable. Swanson takes time and care to paint a picture of Abigail and Bruce’s lives together. You get to know Abigail particularly well and what makes her tick, before the author blows the couple’s worlds apart. When the bomb is dropped, OMG, it’s a big un! I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough – I had to find out how things were going to end. I was gripped and loving every second of my reading experience.

I grew to like Abigail over the course of the novel. I will admit I wasn’t an instant fan but my judgement was based more on her indiscretion and my own personal feelings about cheating on a partner. I was hoping she would get her comeuppance. However, I quickly changed my mind as the story progressed. Oh boy, did I change my mind!!

I did have one tiny niggle about this book and you’re probably going to think I’m crazy! The use of the word ‘pond’. To me, as a Brit, a pond is a small, stagnant body of water. Probably infested with frogs, algae and water slugs (are they a thing?). In Every Vow You Break, characters are swimming and sailing on the pond which seemed to me to be vast. Isn’t that a lake? Perhaps it’s a UK vs US thing. Anyway, my point is, the use of the word jarred me a little every time it was used as what I pictured in my own mind didn’t seem to match with what the book was telling me. Maybe I’m just odd. Maybe I have no knowledge whatsoever of ponds and I should just shut up now…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Every Vow You Break is a great addition to Swanson’s back catalogue. The author remains one of my absolute favourites and I’m already looking forward to his next book. Every Vow You Break has a very interesting twist which drew me in to the story. At times I was on the edge of my seat, at other times I was furious with the characters. My blood was boiling. All in all, another brilliant reading experience from the master of suspense. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Every Vow You Break. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber Books on 18th March 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 |

Peter Swanson is the author of seven novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Every Vow You Break. His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

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

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Yearn To Fear by Chas Murrell (@MurrellChas) @cobaltdinosaur #YearnToFear #damppebbles

“The greatest scientific invention of modern times…
Capable of curing humanity…
But more adept at controlling it…

Sydney scientist, Marcus Hall, is developing a radical 5G Wi-Fi receiver for CSIRO. With access to secretive Lamarr computer chips – this technology promises billions to repair Australia’s ravaged economy. On a caffeine boosted whim, he inadvertently discovers a therapeutic breakthrough in neuroscience. Or so he thinks…

His seemingly trustworthy lab partner, Henry, is an unlikely Australian spy. His official duty is keeping tabs on the project and their Lamarr chips. But the whole project is now classified top-secret.
Marcus remains blissfully unaware of the many secrets surrounding him, until he witnesses the graphic murder of a colleague. Could this event reveal Henry as a master deceiver and ruthless double agent? Will the scientific discovery be fatal for Marcus, those he loves, and the one he yearns for? Marcus faces a soul tearing dilemma: is the only means of stopping the carnage to weaponise his prototype?

Foreign intelligence agencies realise the top-secret breakthrough is priceless. One particular spy leads the race to seize the invention. A psychological master of the long game, espionage, and extortion, his only rule according to Kung Fu: Win.

Friend and foe alike confront this psychotic mastermind. All will FEAR him, but is their FEAR real? Only the next six minutes will tell…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I’m handing the blog over to my guest reviewer, Ryan, who is going to share his review of Yearn to Fear by Chas Murrell as part of the blog tour. Yearn to Fear was published on 18th November 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. Ryan chose to read and review a free digital copy of Yearn to Fear but that has in no way influenced his review.

Yearn to Fear is the debut novel from Chas Murrell and what is very impressive about this book is that Chas has his own distinct style already. Yearn to Fear is not a formulaic spy thriller, nor is it a dry police procedural. Rather it is a character driven espionage, spy thriller with weapons! It’s intriguing, it’s different and it’s well worth a read!

Yearn to Fear follows Marcus and Henry as they work at CSIRO on a new telecommunication chip. The work isn’t showing promising results but after one experiment they discover the unexpected power of the Lamarr chip. The chip can bring benefits to the users and the potential market is suddenly much bigger than the 5G companies. This is something that everyone wants to get their hands on and they will stop at nothing to get it!

Once we realise the power of the chip, the reader is plunged headlong into an exciting adventure where everyone we met in the first half of the book suddenly starts to show their true colours. When you have something every government would kill for, who can you trust? Each character starts to evolve; we see what drives them, we see more of their true purpose and that means things will get messy. Throw in a handful of heavies, some special ops and of the course the local police and you get a story you will not want to put down. I felt intrigued as to where this was going to go, who was really out to get who, and who may not be who they seem. There were definitely twists and surprises in this one that left me shocked.

I must say I found the first half of the story a little slow. The character building and the scientific explanation of what the Lamarr chip may or may not be doing felt carefully paced. However Murrell is teeing up the story for an explosive second half and what promises to be an interesting sequel. Not once as a reader did I feel overawed by the science, or the implications. The author moved the plot along at a rapid pace without befuddling the reader.

The interesting benefit of setting a story around a massive research institute like CSIRO is that you are allowed very intelligent characters.  Leaps of logic that in other books would seem out of place, were cleverly explained by the author. The ‘good guys’ didn’t just have to rely on serendipity and bullets in this novel. Brains were allowed and the mental chess game with the enemy spy made for entertaining reading.

I would recommend Yearn to Fear to anyone looking for a different take on the spy thriller and looking to find a new go-to author.

Ryan chose to read and review a free digital copy of Yearn to Fear. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Yearn to Fear by Chas Murrell was published in the UK on 18th November 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesdamppebbles bookshop.org shopGoodreads |

Chas Murrell has been a Police Officer, Senior Fire Commander, Customs Coastwatch surveillance mission co-ordinator, heavy machinery mechanic, emergency medical technician/ instructor, film extra, and General Manager of an event company. He has published academic papers on liquid hydrogen and held a worldwide provisional patent for a nonlinear mathematical calculation. He survived Australia’s largest gas BLEVE in 1987, and has provided operational support to some of Australia’s largest natural disasters in North Queensland.

On a personal level he has suffered from relentless and debilitating migraines all his life, is father to four and pop to two. He and his artistically entrepreneurial wife live in Tasmania, which looks very much like Scotland and they wouldn’t have it any other way. A direct descendant of Robert the Bruce (King of Scots), history runs deep in Chas’s veins, along with a profound knowledge of both World Wars. You may even come across him online playing World of Tanks.

In his Australian spy thriller books you will get to know Chas’s knowledge of technology, intrigue, crime, espionage, weaponry, banter, romance and even whisky… yet above all, there is believability and no loose ends.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Comeback by Chris Limb (@catmachine) @unbounders @cobaltdinosaur #Comeback #damppebbles

“Genie has everything – a BRIT award, a singing career, the attention of the press and Oliver Fox, a pretty boy who looks good on her arm.

Until he dies.

His death brings Genie’s long buried feelings bubbling to the surface. Her grief over the death of her lover Wendi who introduced her to this world. Her self doubt and fear that she will be exposed as a fraud.

How far is she prepared to go to fix things? 

The afterlife isn’t the most comfortable of places for anyone who’s still alive, but Genie’s not going to take any crap from the dead – she’s got years of experience in the music business.

Sometimes going to Hell and back takes a lifetime…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I’m handing the blog over to my guest reviewer, Ryan, today who is sharing his review of Comeback by Chris Limb as part of the blog tour. Comeback was published by Unbound on 21st January 2021 and is available in digital and paperback formats. Ryan chose to read and review a free digital copy of Comeback but that has in no way influenced his review.

There are some blurbs that are easy to forget but this blurb caught my attention and intrigued me, and I am so glad it did.  Comeback charts the story of Genie from her introduction into the world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to a commercially successful peak and then personal freefall after her partner, Oliver Fox, dies. For most authors that would be enough, but not for Chris Limb! For here in Comeback death is not the end of the story, just the start of the next chapter.

The story is not told linearly, with the reader learning more about Genie and Ollie’s past as the story progresses. Comeback will pull the reader into its plot and leave you fascinated as to where the story will go next. I loved the energy of the settings, the characters and the honesty about the seediness of the music world. The flashbacks to Genie’s unexpected journey to pop stardom acted as a perfect counterweight to the incredible situations she was finding herself in in the afterlife, and meant that the book strangely kept some form of realism amongst the fantastical elements.

Genie is a fascinating central character and we see her grow from a shy retiring wallflower to staring out from the front cover of a music magazine. But rather than letting commercial success seem the pinnacle, Limb shows that the personal changes around Genie are not happening at the same time. Commercial success does not always equal happiness, and sometimes it takes an event or adventure to put this in perspective. And what an adventure Genie goes on!

By reading Comeback you will be taken to places you didn’t think possible. The story contains genuine wit, characters that evolve and change in front of you and wonderful classical mythological references. I wish I could say more but I don’t want to spoil the surprises for you!

I don’t think many authors could bring together the disparate references of BRIT award winners and mythology and create something this good!  Genie’s tortured choices of whether to do what was expected of her for success, versus what she wanted to do for herself, were a common element throughout the story and we watch as her self-confidence grows and crumbles at different times.

Would I recommend Comeback?  I would! If you are after something different to read, a book that will take you to Hell and Back but leave you with a smile, then Comeback is the book for you. Chris Limb has written something so out of this world that it may just be the tonic we all need for today’s reality!

Comeback by Chris Limb was published in the UK by Unbound on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesBlackwells | Barnes & NobleHive.co.uk | bookshop.orgFoyles | Book Depositorythe damppebbles bookshop.org shop | Goodreads |

Chris is a writer based in UK, who has had a number of short stories published over the past few years, blogs on a regular basis and occasionally reviews books and audios for the British Fantasy Society.

Chris wrote a short pop memoir which was published in 2011 and went down well with its core-audience. It continues to sell at a steady rate to this day.

Chris also plays bass guitar and performs random acts of web and graphic design for a diverse selection of clients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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