#BookReview: The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird @boroughpress #TheEndOfMen #damppebbles

“Glasgow, 2025.  Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a young man with a mild fever. Within three hours he dies. The mysterious illness sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed. This is how it begins.

The victims are all men.

Dr Maclean raises the alarm, but the sickness spreads to every corner of the globe. Threatening families. Governments. Countries.

Can they find a cure before it’s too late? Will this be the story of the end of the world – or its salvation?

Compelling, confronting and devastating, The End of Men is the novel that everyone is talking about.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird. The End of Men is published by The Borough Press today (that’s Thursday 29th April 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The End of Men but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh.My.Goodness! This book is incredible. After the last year or so, you’ll understand why I have been purposefully avoiding all fiction which involves a virus or a pandemic. Too close to home. Far, far too close to home. But Sweeney-Baird’s debut intrigued me. I love dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. However, I don’t read anywhere near enough. The End of Men has without doubt reignited my love of this compelling, thought-provoking genre. This book is an absolute must-read!

On a normal shift in A&E, Dr Amanda Maclean makes a shocking discovery. Male patients and staff in the hospital are coming down with a mystery illness which, within a few days, kills them. Dr Maclean recognises the risk and tries to put emergency measures into place to control the spread of the virus. But she’s thwarted at every turn by those higher up the food chain. Before long the virus – named by Dr Maclean as the Plague – is taking over and spreading faster than anyone could imagine. As the World struggles to find a vaccine, the question on everyone’s lips is: could this be the end of men….?

Absolutely superb and frighteningly real. The author has included a note at the start of the novel which explains how the book was written before COVID came into our lives. I wonder how the author felt as she watched the news stories building day by day. The virus in The End of Men is, of course, not the same as COVID but there are similarities which can’t be ignored.

Anyway, enough talk of COVID. I only mentioned it because I think it’s impossible to ignore our own experience of a pandemic when you’re discussing a book about a pandemic! So instead let’s imagine a world where virtually everyone you meet is female. All of the men – the husbands, the sons, the fathers, the brothers, the uncles – have died. A few men are immune but the odds aren’t great, only 1 in 10. Every other male is guaranteed to die because there is no stopping the Plague. Women carry the virus but don’t become ill. There is no vaccine, shielding can help but only for so long. It’s a death sentence and there’s nothing that can be done. Now think of all of the professions where the large majority of people qualified are men (not exclusively men but the majority). Pilots, electricians, refuse workers, the army, the police force, the list goes on. The implications of the author’s scary new world are far reaching and it was a real eye opener for this reader. The slow realisation of what no men would, in reality, actually mean.

The End of Men is the true definition a page turner. I couldn’t put this book down as I was desperate to find out what revelation the author was going to share with me next. We follow the lives of several woman and watch how grief, uncertainty and a complete change in lifestyle affect them. Some, surprisingly, for the better. For a lot of the woman in this novel, the painful loss of some or all of their family, was devastating. My heart broke on several occasions and I particularly felt for Catherine. Catherine is an anthropologist who features throughout the book and decides to record the stories of the Plague for future reference. I loved Catherine who was unapologetic in her grief, devoted to her loving husband and adorable son. I looked forward to hearing from her and I longed for her story to finish on a high note. Whether it does or not, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The End of Men is a must read for all. Intelligent, poignant, devastating and totally absorbing. This is another stunning debut for 2021 which I heartily recommend. Another strong contender for my ‘books of the year’ list. I struggled to put this one down and on the odd occasion where I did, I was desperate to pick it up again and return to the author’s world. Such an emotional, well thought out and captivating piece of fiction that I hope flies off the shelves. It absolutely deserves to! Highly recommended.

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

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird was published in the UK by The Borough Press on 29th April 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 |

Christina Sweeney-Baird was born in 1993 and grew up in North London and Glasgow. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and graduated with a First in 2015. She works as a corporate litigation lawyer in London. The End of Men is her first novel.

#BookReview: Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton #ThreeHours #damppebbles

“THREE HOURS TO SAVE THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege.

Pupils and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news.

In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton. Three Hours was published by Penguin Books on 29th October 2020 and is available in all formats. I couldn’t resist this book after seeing so many wonderful reviews.

However, I have been umming and ahhring about writing my review. Why? Because Three Hours absolutely broke me. Never has a book had such a powerful effect on me. It’s a sublime read but utterly devastating. I loved it but it ended up changing my mood.  It made me terribly sad and I hugged my kids just that little bit tighter because of it. Three Hours will stay with me forever.

On a snowy December day, oblivious to what is about to happen, the parents of Cliff Heights School drop their children off believing it to be just like any other school day. Only an hour later, the children start texting and tweeting their parents. There’s a gunman in the school. They’re terrified and hiding for their lives. The parents rush to the school but they’re turned away by the police, they feel helpless and can only watch from afar. The clock is ticking…

I’ve never read such a tense, compelling novel before. My heart was in my mouth from the very start and it stayed there throughout. I was living and breathing the story alongside the characters, like a movie playing in my mind. And the terror felt real. It was insane how deeply this book burrowed its way into my being. It was such an intense, emotional experience reading Three Hours.

I felt there were two sides to this story. You have the human side; the kids and teachers trapped in the school in fear for their lives, the parents being kept at a distance whilst being utterly helpless. And then you have the technical side; the police analysing every move the gunman makes, trying to pre-empt any demands and the reasons for carrying out such a horrific act. I loved the juxtaposition of these two faces – emotional versus technical and scientific. It’s a true race against time and I was on the edge of my seat throughout.

I had a feeling I knew where one of the plotlines in the book was heading but it still broke my heart into a million pieces when the truth was revealed. The author has written such an immersive, current and hypnotic novel. The bravery shown by the kids, the resilience and determination shown by the teachers, and the heartbreak shown by the parents makes for absorbing reading.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Reading Three Hours was such an experience for me that it will be impossible to forget. Beautifully written, full of drama and shedloads of terror-filled suspense. I devoured the book. It affected me greatly. Recommended.

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton was published by Penguin Books on 29th October 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): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Rosamund Lupton is the author of four novels.

Rosamund Lupton graduated from Cambridge University in 1986. After reviewing books for the Literary Review and being invited to join the Royal Court Theatre, she won a television play competition and subsequently worked as a screen writer. Her debut novel Sister, was a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, has been translated into over thirty languages and has international sales of over 1.5 million copies. It was the fastest-selling debut of 2010 by a British author, and was winner of the Richard and Judy Best Debut Novel of 2011 Award and the Strand Magazine Critics First Novel Award. Film rights of Sister are currently under option.

Lupton’s critically acclaimed second novel Afterwards also went straight into the Sunday Times bestseller lists and was the No. 2 Sunday Times fiction bestseller of 2011. The Quality of Silence her third novel was a Sunday Times best seller and a Richard & Judy bookclub pick

Her new novel Three Hours is a Sunday Times top ten best seller and a best book of 2020 in the Sunday Times, the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Stylist, Red & Good Housekeeping. It’s a Times and Sunday Times thriller of the month.

#BookReview: Tall Bones by Anna Bailey @DoubledayUK #TallBones #damppebbles

tall bones“When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.

Abi’s disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.

Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones….”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Tall Bones by Anna Bailey. Tall Bones is published today (that’s Thursday 1st April) by Doubleday Books and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of Tall Bones but that has in no way influenced my review.

Gosh, I loved this book. I’m currently suffering a bit of a book hangover and I can’t stop thinking about it. I was instantly drawn to the stunning cover and the promise of small town secrets. It delivered ten-fold. You’ve got to read it!

Seventeen year old Abi Blake waves goodbye to her best friend, Emma Alvarez, and assures her she’ll be able to get home safely. Emma, fearful for her friend’s safety, reluctantly leaves. The following morning there’s no sign of Abi. Everyone in the small town of Whistling Ridge has a secret. Everyone has their own version of events from the night Abi disappeared but no one is willing to talk. What happened to Abi Blake that fateful night out at the Tall Bones…?

Absolutely gorgeous and utterly glorious. From the opening chapters this book had a hold over me and I savoured every moment I spent with it. It’s such a beautifully written piece of fiction which managed to completely entrance me. I loved it and I can easily see this book featuring in my top reads of the year, if not my absolute top pick for 2021.

My heart broke for Emma who is consumed with guilt after leaving Abi at the Tall Bones. She turns to drink to try and numb the hurt and the humiliation but no matter how much she drinks, it doesn’t stop the pain. And that’s how she meets Rat Lăcustă who she helplessly falls in love with. Rat is young, spirited and exotic. And not the slightest bit interested romantically in Emma which only brings her more heartache. In Emma, the author has created a young woman at her most vulnerable, and she touched my heart.

But Emma and Rat are only the beginning of a cast of characters who all stand tall from the page. The Blake family made me feel such a strong mix of emotions. I adored Jude, Abi’s younger brother, broken by those who should love him the most but still loyal to a fault. Abi’s mother, Dolly, made me furious in one breath for not acknowledging or stopping what was going on right in front of her eyes. In the next breath I couldn’t help but feel for her. Stuck in a loveless marriage and feeling completely trapped. Yes, her actions were unforgiveable but I wouldn’t wish her life on anyone. Noah, Abi’s older brother, was beautifully drawn. As he begins to realise who he is and what is important to him, he is shunned by the small town community he calls home and gossiped about at every opportunity. His blossoming relationship with Rat was both tentative and intense and I thoroughly enjoyed how the author wrote their interactions. A true love story. And finally we have Samuel Blake, Abi’s father. A cruel and aggressive man who made my blood boil with his  hatred and discrimination. He uses the bible and the church’s teachings to justify his atrocious treatment of his wife and sons without remorse.

The plot pulls the reader into the story to the point where it’s hard to put the book down for any length of time. When I wasn’t reading Tall Bones, I was thinking about it. It consumed me totally and I’m so glad it did. When I say ‘I will remember this book for some time to come’ that feels like a massive understatement. This is one of those books which has left its permanent mark on me.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. Tall Bones is a haunting, beautiful but ultimately dark read that I devoured with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Its themes can be quite unsettling and upsetting at times, particularly later in the book, but it’s an astonishing debut. I’m so happy I took a chance on this one but I also feel bereft that it’s over. I miss Whistling Ridge (although once you’ve read the book you’ll wonder why). I’m a sucker for a small town American crime novel and this is an absolutely superb one. Shame, secrets, love and lies as the tagline says. What more could you want? Highly recommended.

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

Tall Bones (also known as Where The Truth Lies in the US) by Anna Bailey was published in the UK by Doubleday on 1st April 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 |

Anna Bailey grew up in Gloucestershire and studied Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, before moving to Texas and later Colorado. In 2018, she returned to the UK where she enrolled in the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course. She currently works as a freelance journalist in Cheltenham, where she lives with her three cats.

#BookReview: Time Is Running Out by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #TimeIsRunningOut #damppebbles

“You’re a survivor, aren’t you, Matilda? But what’s the point in surviving when everyone around you is dead?

When DCI Matilda Darke receives a mysterious telephone call, she immediately dismisses the threat. Afterall the Homicide and Major Enquiries team are a regular target for prank calls.

But ignoring this warning might soon be the biggest regret of Matilda Darke’s life.

A lone gunman is on a deadly rampage around Sheffield, leaving a bloody trail in his wake. Taking his shots with a sickening precision, he’s about to leave his mark on the world and change Matilda and her team’s lives forever.

The next chilling instalment in the DCI Matilda Darke thriller series, perfect for fans of Patricia Gibney and Angela Marsons.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of the latest book in the DCI Matilda Darke series by Michael Wood – Time Is Running Out. Time Is Running Out was published on 26th February 2021 by One More Chapter and is available in digital format with the paperback to follow in May. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Time Is Running Out but that has in no way influenced my review.

This book is incredible and all kinds of insane! I’m a little awestruck but in the best way possible. Flipping heck! I have been reading the DCI Darke series for a while now. Although, I have to admit, I haven’t read the first two books but that has not hampered my enjoyment of the series at any point. My advice to you, before reading this latest instalment (which coincidentally is book seven), is to get to know the recurring characters a little first. Become familiar with and completely invested in this fantastic team. So then, when you get round to reading Time Is Running Out, the events and the outcome of this brilliant book will smack you about the head and leave you utterly dazed with your jaw on the floor. I ADORED this book!

It’s a normal day at South Yorkshire Police HQ when DCI Matilda Darke receives a strange phone call. She dismisses it, not giving it much thought and starts the morning briefing. But the phone call marks the start of an unforgettable day in the lives of those in and around the Sheffield area. The day a gunman terrorised their city, killing numerous people. The devastation and the grief is far reaching. Will life ever be the same again for the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team. And in particular, for DCI Darke…?

Holy moly, what a book! I’ve always said in my reviews for this author’s novels that he is not afraid to put his characters through the wringer and oh boy, I think Time Is Running Out proves that. What a brave, unflinching piece of absolutely gut-wrenching and gripping fiction. Fans of the series are either gonna love it or need counselling. I devoured this book and I loved every single bloodied second of it.

Now all I need to do is work out how to talk about the book without spoilers, which will be a challenge. We join the team on a normal day at the start of January and very early on the author gives readers a piece of good news – something to celebrate and warm the cockles. And then it all goes horribly, horribly wrong for the people of Sheffield. The initial scene, where we discover a gunman is on the loose, is utterly shocking. The pacing is perfect and I was holding my breath throughout. I kept muttering to myself under my breath – ‘surely, he won’t… oh, he has!!!’. It was jaw dropping and so brilliantly done. From there, things actually get a whole lot worse. If I said I was on the edge of my seat that would be an understatement. I had goosebumps, I had chills, I had palpitations.

The action doesn’t really stop from that point forward. Despite their best intentions and all resources being put into the investigation, the team falter. They struggle to find out the identity of the gunman or his reason for carrying out the devastating carnage. Time Is Running Out is so cleverly written, so very immersive and it was a dream of a novel to read. I am a little peeved at the author for a couple of things but hey, I can understand why he did what he did. I just wish other authors were as brave.

Would I recommend this book? I would recommend Time Is Running Out whole heartedly but only after you’ve read a couple of earlier DCI Darke novels. I think you need a good understanding of the team and what makes them tick to get the best out of the book. It’s a truly epic piece of crime fiction and I loved it. The best police procedural I’ve read in a long time, no doubt about it. Life will never be the same again. However, I will say it’s probably not for the faint hearted and contains some distressing scenes that not everyone will be comfortable with, but I devoured this book with glee. I cannot wait to see what the author comes up with next. Brave, bold and completely hypnotic. I struggled to put this one down. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Time Is Running Out. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Time Is Running Out by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 26th February 2021 and is available in digital format with the paperback to follow in May (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 Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | the damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Michael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: The Appeal by Janice Hallett @ViperBooks #TheAppeal #damppebbles

the appeal“IN A TOWN FULL OF SECRETS
SOMEONE WAS MURDERED.

SOMEONE WENT TO PRISON.

AND EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.

CAN YOU UNCOVER THE TRUTH?

Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.

Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.

Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.

Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?

The standout debut thriller of 2021 that delivers multiple brilliant twists, and will change the way you think about the modern crime novel.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the utterly captivating The Appeal by Janice Hallett. The Appeal is published by Viper Books today (that’s 14th January 2021) and is available in hardcover and digital formats, with the paperback to follow in the Summer. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Appeal but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Viper Books for sending me an early proof of the book.

The Appeal is quite a feat! Writing and publishing a book doesn’t strike me as a simple thing to do (more like a mammoth, complicated one) and I give massive kudos to anyone who achieves it. Authors, you have my everlasting respect. But to write THIS book…WOW! The Appeal is like nothing I’ve read before and, if the fascinating yet unusual format catches on, I don’t think another author will be able to achieve the heady heights of sheer brilliance Hallett has reached in this, her debut. It’s very early in the year to be saying this but, if you only listen to one of my book recommendations this year, please, please, please make it this one. Get yourself a copy of The Appeal.

Normally at this point in a damppebbles review I would give my take on the plot. However, The Appeal is a very different reading experience and everything you need to know is written in the blurb. I started this book without a clue what to expect. I hadn’t looked the book up online, I hadn’t read the back or the inside cover. And from the opening introduction, I was intrigued. A murder, you say? Someone possibly wrongly convicted? Sounds pretty ‘normal fare’ for us crime fiction readers so far, right? But then it starts to get really interesting. The book, the story, is told using emails, reports, messenger transcripts and other digital forms of communication. All of it. From start to finish. It’s a brilliant achievement and I take my hat off to the author. To tell such an intricate story with so much detail in this format must have taken one heck of a lot of work and planning. The cherry on the top is that you, the reader, are tasked with solving the case. The evidence is laid before you and you need to read between the lines, spot the hidden truths in amongst the recovered conversations. The Appeal is something very special and I devoured it.

The book is set around an amateur dramatics group called The Fairway Players. Quite early on we’re given a list of those who make up the Players, which made my heart sink a little as there are quite a few names (along with their ages and their relationship to other members of the group). My ageing brain isn’t as quick or as capable as it used to be. So at this point, I did something I don’t normally do. I put a page marker in my copy of the book so I could refer back to the list if I needed to. Including the list so early in the book is a masterstroke. It’s then repeated later on as well which I think really helped cement who everyone is. Before long I was reading the email conversations between Hallett’s wonderfully written characters quickly and with ease.

And what a group of characters they are! The author has created an absorbing character study that shows exactly how ‘human’ humans can be. Flawed, deceitful, selfish and secretive. Unendingly loyal and protective. The email exchanges between these people are both fascinating and uncomfortable at times. You see scenarios from different points of view. Situations are ever so slightly changed in their retelling so the author of the email looks a little bit better than they would have done otherwise. One character’s desperation is utterly cringeworthy and, oh my gosh, the way they speak to each other…. Well, I was astounded! I felt on edge reading these exchanges, I wanted to know more as it was clear we were cleverly being drip-fed information bit by bit. What was going on behind the scenes, what secrets were we not party to? I loved it. Everything about The Appeal worked for me.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. I’ve barely scratched the surface of The Appeal in this review. I’ve not mentioned Roderick Tanner QC, Femi or Charlotte. I’ve not mentioned the fundraising drive to raise money for Poppy’s Appeal. I’ve not mentioned that there are no traditional chapters in this book (which I found a little mind bending until I got used to the format). And I’ve also not mentioned that you don’t find out who has been murdered until around two-thirds of the way through the book. Nor who has been put in prison for the crime.

The Appeal is a very clever, all-consuming novel which I struggled to put down. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about the characters. For the duration of my time with this book, I was 100% in its pages and now I’ve finished it, I feel a little bereft. For the record, I failed to work out whodunit. I spent a large proportion of the book hoping the author was actually going to tell us who the culprit was as I was flummoxed and if it was down to me, the appeal wouldn’t have been solved. I may not have solved the case but I had a few suspicions about a few other things and I was right about those so not all is lost. An absolutely outstanding piece of clever, brilliantly written crime fiction that deserves all the awards. I savoured every single moment I had with The Appeal. This is a book you need on your reading list. This is a book everyone is going to be talking about and oh boy, does it deserve it. Compelling and utterly irresistible. Highly recommended.

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

The Appeal by Janice Hallett was published in the UK by Viper Books on 14th January 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

janice hallettJanice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist and government communications writer. She wrote articles and speeches for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office and Department for International Development. Her enthusiasm for travel has taken her around the world several times, from Madagascar to the Galapagos, Guatemala to Zimbabwe, Japan, Russia and South Korea. A playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and co-wrote the feature film Retreat, a psychological thriller starring Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton and Jamie Bell. The Appeal is her first novel.

#GuestReview: Cooking for Cannibals by Rich Leder (@richleder) @LaughRiotPress @cobaltdinosaur #CookingForCannibals #damppebbles

Fountain of youth? More like murderous medication!

Carrie Kromer pushes the boundaries of science, not her social life. The brilliant behavioral gerontologist’s idea of a good time is hanging out with her beloved lab rats and taking care of her elderly mother and the other eccentric old folks at the nursing home. So no one is more surprised than Carrie when she steals the lab’s top-secret, experimental medicine for aging in reverse.

Two-time ex-con Johnny Fairfax dreams of culinary greatness. But when his corrupt parole officer tries to drag him from the nursing home kitchen, the suddenly young-again residents spring to his defence and murder the guy—and then request Johnny cook them an evidence devouring dinner to satisfy their insatiable side-effect appetite.

As their unexpected mutual attraction gets hot, Carrie and Johnny find themselves caught up with the authorities who arrive to investigate the killing. But even more dangerous than the man-eating not-so-senior citizens could be the arrival of death-dealing pharmaceutical hitmen.

Can Carrie and Johnny find true love in all this bloody madness?

Cooking for Cannibals is a dark comic thriller with a heaping helping of romance. If you like fast-paced plots, unconventional characters, and humor that crosses the line, then you’ll have a feast with Rich Leder’s wild ride.”

Welcome to damppebbles. Ryan here again. I’m sure you have a favourite book in the “Gerontologist and Cook” genre and are fearing it is a saturated market (🤪). But read on, for this is a novel not be missed!  Cooking for Cannibals is fast paced, thought provoking, humorous and characterful, and will leave you scouring the book sites and book shops for more from Rich Leder.

Leder has created a comic novel the likes of which Carl Hiaasen would be proud of. Brilliantly characterised characters, larger than life miscreants, a situation that no matter how twisted it seems can always be wrung further, sucking helpless readers in to find out what is going to happen next.

Carrie and Johnny are two interesting lead characters. As the blurb explains, you wouldn’t expect to find that they know each other. So when the storyline throws them together, facing everyone and everything private pharma can throw at them, they make an interesting pairing!  If you had an age reversing drug rejuvenating the inhabitants of an old folks home and needed to keep it quiet, you would not want your main confident to be someone this different from you who you didn’t trust, but that’s exactly the situation Carrie and Johnny end up in.  I loved how well we got to know these two characters, their feelings, drives, doubts and thoughts on the various situations they found themselves in.  Something a standalone novel allows is that ability for an author to draw everything out of a character rather than having to save some secret backstory or character flaw for the next book.  Leder doesn’t just wring his characters out, he puts them through hell and back for the delectation and delight of the reader.

This is one of those rare books that I couldn’t put down. It delighted me every time I picked it up and it’s probably the only book I’ll ever read where I think the cannibals are in the right!  If you are looking for escapism after a rotten 2020. If you want to sit back and be entertained by a colourful cast on an incredible adventure, then this is your 2020 tonic!  A fantastic book from an author that I will happily return to.

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

Cooking for Cannibals by Rich Leder was published in the UK by Laugh Riot Press on 14th January 2021 and is available in digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.com |

Rich Leder has been a working writer for more than three decades. His credits include 19 produced movies—television films for CBS, Lifetime, and Hallmark and feature films for Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, Longridge Productions, and Left Bank Films—and six novels for Laugh Riot Press.

He’s been the lead singer in a Detroit rock band, a restaurateur, a Little League coach, an indie film director, a literacy tutor, a magazine editor, a screenwriting coach, a wedding guru, a PTA board member, a commercial real estate agent, and a visiting artist for the UNCW Film Studies Department, among other things, all of which, it turns out, was grist for the mill.

He resides on the North Carolina coast with his awesome wife, Lulu, and is sustained by the visits home of their three fabulous children.

#BookReview: Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims @gollancz #ThirteenStoreys #damppebbles

thirteen storeys

“You’re cordially invited to dinner. Penthouse access is available via the broken freight elevator. Black tie optional.

A dinner party is held in the penthouse of a multimillion-pound development. All the guests are strangers – even to their host, the billionaire owner of the building.

None of them know why they were selected to receive his invitation. Whether privileged or deprived, besides a postcode, they share only one thing in common – they’ve all experienced a shocking disturbance within the building’s walls.

By the end of the night, their host is dead, and none of the guests ever said what happened.
His death remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries – until now.

But are you ready for their stories?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the excellent Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims. Thirteen Storeys is published by Gollancz today (that’s 26th November 2020) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Thirteen Storeys but that has in no way influenced my review.

Some books pass you by. They’re instantly forgettable and not your thing at all. Other books – like Thirteen Storeys – have the ability to stop you dead in your tracks and make you feel like you’re missing out on something incredibly special if you don’t read them. I saw this book reviewed on another blog and it absolutely sang to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t get the cover out of my head. I feel like I’m being very melodramatic but oh well, it felt like there was an actual real life connection between me and Thirteen Storeys. And what a corker of a read it was!

Normally at this point in one of my reviews I would recap the blurb for you. I’ve decided to not do that when it comes to Thirteen Storeys as the publisher’s blurb tells you everything you need to know and I think my ‘take’ on it wouldn’t add anything. In fact, I’m concerned I may say something I shouldn’t so, to save my blushes, please refer to the blurb if you haven’t done so already 😂

This cracking book opens with a newspaper report on the anniversary of the death of multi-billionaire, Tobias Fell. Fell’s many achievements – including the commission of a high rise tower block in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets called Banyan Court which, incidentally, is the home of many of the guests – is noted. But what the reporter really draws attention to is Fell’s very unusual and highly suspicious death. Witnessed by thirteen guests at a very exclusive dinner party, no one is really sure how he died (quite so horrifically) and one thing is for sure, they are certainly not going to talk about it. Each chapter tells the story of one of those thirteen guests in the lead-up to that notorious dinner party. Giving the reader a tantalising and intriguing glimpse into thirteen very different lives and what ultimately connects them. There are strange and creepy goings-on at Banyan Court and the author has done a masterful job of creating an outstanding cast of characters, all of whom pull the reader into their world.

Each story is individual and stands tall, but the tendrils of Banyan Court run through them all with familiar characters appearing all over the place and memorable events being seen from different view points. I loved this book and found the author’s approach very refreshing. It’s a short story collection, but not. All of the events and characters in Thirteen Storeys are under one big horror laden umbrella. It’s a very clever and well-written novel.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Thirteen Storeys is a beautifully written contemporary horror novel that I know for sure will leave its mark on me. I don’t remember reading anything like this before and it was an absolute delight. The excitement I felt as I approached the end of the book, having lived through the characters’ trauma with them, was palpable. I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to Fell. It was a thrilling ride and I was deeply satisfied with the stomach-churning conclusion. I loved this book and would happily read more by this author. Highly recommended.

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

Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims was published in the UK by Gollancz on 26th November 2020 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 | Goodreads |

about-the-author3
Jonathan Sims is a writer, performer and games designer whose work primarily focuses on the macabre, the grotesque, and the gentle touch of creeping dread. He is the mind and the voice behind acclaimed horror podcast The Magnus Archives, as well as story-game design duo MacGuffin & Co., and some of your favourite nightmares. He lives in Walthamstow with the two best cats and an overwhelming backlog of books that he really should get round to.