#BookReview: The Coven by Lizzie Fry @BooksSphere #TheCoven #damppebbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Coven by Lizzie Fry. The Coven was published by Sphere Books in paperback on 2nd September 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free copy of The Coven which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Lizzie for sending me a finished copy.

As Halloween approaches many readers change their reading habits to include the witchy, the ghostly and the ghoulish. Not me. Halloween is great but the supernatural and the scary work all year long, right? Summer, bring it on. Christmas, the perfect time to scare yourself witless. I’ve realised though that I haven’t read many books featuring witches. So when I received a gifted copy of The Coven by Lizzie Fry, I moved it straight to the top of the TBR. And I’m so glad I did. The Coven is a superbly crafted, high-energy, international thriller that starts at a cracking pace and doesn’t let up until the final word.

After many years of living relatively peacefully side by side, the President of the US declares all witches should be voluntarily imprisoned for their safety and for others. The Sentinel are charged with rounding up those who don’t present themselves and they’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. But a good few thousand miles away, in the city of Exeter, nineteen year old Chloe Su is about to come into her powers. With the help of her father, a newly escaped crystal witch, and the Sentinel Agent who broke the witch free, Chloe takes the first step on a journey which will take her across international borders and into more danger than she ever thought possible…

Powerful, gutsy women lead the cast in a thrilling, non-stop race against time. Bloody marvellous! Fry has created a dark, edgy thriller in an alternative world where some of the female population are considered by non-magical folk as the scourge of the earth. All because the big guy in the White House says so! The men reign supreme. The divide between the genders – which includes the non-magical women who are labelled by the menfolk as ‘Goody’s’ – is vast. Fry has created such a strong divide between the genders that it made my blood boil at points. But in the best way possible. I have read other dystopian novels where the storyline centres around a similar male/female divide but Fry outshines them all with The Coven. I was angry for the women, I wanted justice and recognition for them. I wanted them to escape from the oppressive misogynistic regime they were forced under thanks to the Sentinel. It’s safe to say I was rooting for them 100%.

The Coven is a fast paced, thrill-ride of a story which doesn’t let up until the nail biting conclusion. Along the way we meet several interesting, well-written characters. Some I warmed to, others not so much (they’re kind of despicable, horrible human beings – but again, very well-written). My favourite character was Daniel, Chloe’s father, who is thrown into a world he knows nothing about with a ferocity that would leave others running for the hills. (I should mention at this point that not all male characters in the book are crazed zealots out to destroy womankind – only some of them!!) I also really liked Ethan who, despite being on the wrong side for so long, realises his mistake and does absolutely everything he can to make amends. My heart went out to Chloe who, at the age of nineteen, suddenly has the weight of the world on her shoulders. It’s a pretty hefty cross to bear when you’re only just starting to learn who, or what, you are yourself.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Fry’s feminist debut is a thrilling, beautifully intense tale which I struggled to tear myself away from. I was drawn into this alternate world from the get-go and what a ride it was! I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with these intelligent, fearless, fiery women and I look forward to seeing what the author has in store for us next. Fans of dystopian thrillers featuring strong female characters will adore this gripping read. Recommended.

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

The Coven by Lizzie Fry was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 2nd September 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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Lizzie is the author of The Coven, a dystopian thriller for Sphere Books which asks readers to imagine a world in which witchcraft is real, passed down mother to daughter … and men will do absolutely everything they can to stop them.

A fan of such books as The Handmaid’s Tale and A Discovery of Witches, the idea came to Lizzie because she lives in Devon. It was one of the hardest hit areas in England during the witch hunts of the middle ages. There are many monuments to these murdered women in and around the South West. Exeter is officially the first and last place in the UK to hang a witch, which is why Lizzie chooses to kick off the story there.

#BookReview: The Secret by Katerina Diamond @AvonBooksUK #TheSecret #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the secret“Can you keep a secret? Your life depends on it…

When Bridget Reid wakes up in a locked room, terrifying memories come flooding back – of blood, pain, and desperate fear. Her captor knows things she’s never told anyone. How can she escape someone who knows all of her secrets?

As DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles search for Bridget, they uncover a horrifying web of abuse, betrayal and murder right under their noses in Exeter.

And as the past comes back to haunt her, Grey must confront her own demons. Because she knows that it can be those closest to us who hurt us the most…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fifth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Secret by Katerina Diamond. The Secret is the second book in Diamond’s DS Imogen Grey series and was published in all formats by Avon Books on 20th October 2016. I received a free eARC of The Secret but that has in no way influenced my review.

I confess, I’m a terrible book blogger. I read The Teacher (the first book in the DS Grey series) in 2017 and despite really enjoying it, I completely failed to review it. I read it shortly before my first massive reading slump (I can assure you, it was NOT the cause) and then never went back to write down my thoughts. I do regret that, as this series feels elevated from many of the run of the mill police procedurals out there. Diamond has no fear. She’s quite happy to shock and stun her audience with her graphic descriptions and the acts of violence her characters carry out. Which, of course, I absolutely love. I’m a reader who doesn’t shy away from a more brutal crime fiction novel. In fact, I wish more authors were as fearless as Diamond is, and were prepared to push the situations their characters find themselves in a little more.

Having recently returned to work, DS Imogen Grey and her partner, DS Adrian Miles, are tasked with finding a missing woman, Bridget Reid. Bridget was last seen by a hapless bystander half-conscious on the bank of a river after being pursued by two men. Both Grey and Miles know that they’re against the clock and they need to find Bridget soon, before the unthinkable happens. But their investigation grinds to a halt and they struggle to find a direction. As they dig deeper, more and more horrifying secrets are unearthed. Can they find Bridget alive, before it’s too late…?

This book is so much darker than the cover leads you to believe, and I kinda like that. With its grisly opening and it’s fast-paced story, led by a strong and gutsy female lead, it’s hard to not get sucked into this book from the get-go. Whether you’ll end up liking Detective Grey is another matter altogether but I think I’m certainly warming to her. One of the things I remember from reading the first book – The Teacher – was that I liked DS Adrian Miles more than Grey. But the more I get to know this character, the more I like what she’s about.

The story is multi-layered with lots going on to keep your interest. Everybody has a secret to some degree in this novel. There are chapters set in the present which follow the current investigation in Exeter with DS Grey and DS Miles. Then there are chapters set in the past – two years previous – which follow DS Grey and another officer, DS Sam Brown, on a different investigation in Plymouth. The reader discovers so much about Imogen and her past in this book, which I really enjoyed. Then there are some quite harrowing chapters from a young boy throughout the years who is unnamed but we get to follow him as his domineering and violent father carries out his despicable plans.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would but it’s not for the squeamish. There are some pretty grisly scenes in The Secret which I loved! The constant shift from the past to the present was a little disorientating at times, particularly if I had put the book down for a few hours before returning to it. But sitting here cogitating on the novel as a whole, I really enjoyed it and have since been able to piece the different aspects together. All in all, a very entertaining read and I really look forward to catching up with Grey and Miles again soon. Recommended.

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

The Secret by Katerina Diamond was published in the UK by Avon Books on 20th October 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Goodreads | Book Depository |

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Katerina DiamondKaterina is the author of the Sunday Times Best Selling Exeter based crime thriller series – starting with ‘The Teacher’ and followed by The Secret, The Angel, The Promise and Truth or Die. Katerina is currently working on her seventh novel which is a standalone.

Katerina also runs the facebook book group CRIME SUSPECT with several other crime authors.

Katerina currently lives in East Kent. Katerina was born in Weston-super-Mare and has lived in various places since including Greece, Cyprus, Derby, East London and Exeter. Katerina watches way too much TV.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington (@sam_carrington1) @CrimeFix

samc“A teenage girl is missing. Is your daughter involved, or is she next?
Your daughter is in danger. But can you trust her?
When Karen Finch’s seventeen-year-old daughter Sophie arrives home after a night out, drunk and accompanied by police officers, no one is smiling the morning after. But Sophie remembers nothing about how she got into such a state.
Twelve hours later, Sophie’s friend Amy has still not returned home. Then the body of a young woman is found.
Karen is sure that Sophie knows more than she is letting on. But Karen has her own demons to fight. She struggles to go beyond her own door without a panic attack.
As she becomes convinced that Sophie is not only involved but also in danger, Karen must confront her own anxieties to stop whoever killed one young girl moving on to another – Sophie.”

I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Saving Sophie blog tour. You may be feeling a strange sense of deja vu about now, but don’t worry, this is Saving Sophie’s second time on the blog tour circuit and today we celebrate the release of this fabulous book in paperback format!  I was thrilled to be asked to join this tour by Kaisha at The Writing Garnet as I have been rather desperate to read Saving Sophie for some time now.

First up today I have treat for you; an extract from the book for you to read and enjoy. So without further ado…

Extract from SAVING SOPHIE

The picture was of her. Her, wearing the clothes she’d worn last night. And it was no selfie. Sophie threw the phone on her bed, as if it had sent an electric shock through her fingertips. She stared at it, then shook her head a few times, screwing up her eyes, trying to remember. But there was nothing. Who had taken this, and where? What were they intending to do with it, and what ones were to follow?
Standing, feet planted, paralysed in the centre of her messy room, Sophie clenched and unclenched her fists, then clicked her knuckles: pulling down one finger at a time with the thumb of each hand until they cracked.
What should she do? Forcing herself to move forwards, she reached to pick up the phone. Her hands trembled. The picture was still visible. She had to face this, figure it out. Zooming in, she navigated the background in an attempt to see if anything was familiar. It seemed she was in a chair of some sort, legs splayed, slouched back. She guessed from the angle of her body that her head was thrown back; her hair was out of sight. Sophie turned the phone sideways to see it from a different perspective. Apart from the black dress and the blurry dark image on the ankle, which she’d assumed to be her snake tattoo, this photo could be of anyone.
A warm sensation flushed through her. Perhaps it wasn’t her. Any amount of girls had tattoos these days, you couldn’t even see if it was a snake or not. And black dresses weren’t exactly rare. This was someone’s idea of a sick joke. Probably one of the boys taking the piss; could’ve even been Photoshopped. With new-found optimism that it was a prank, Sophie sat down on her rumpled bed and searched the original email for clues as to which of her so-called friends she could thank for frightening her half to death.
It didn’t take long to realise she couldn’t identify the sender. The email address wasn’t a standard one. It looked ridiculously made up, certainly not one she recognised. It’d soon become obvious which of the boys had done it, though, they were incapable of keeping their mouths shut; they must be itching to send a text, Facebook message or tweet so everyone knew about their clever stunt. Oh, how funny they thought they were. Immature arseholes. It wasn’t funny at all, given the fact that Amy still hadn’t rocked up. It was getting worrying now; five thirty and still no sign. Even Amy would’ve slept off a hangover by now.
Sophie reluctantly accessed her Facebook page. Streams of status updates, but none from Amy; none from her friends saying ‘Amy’s back’. For Christ’s sake, Amy, where the hell are you? Sophie got up, her legs leaden with fatigue, and ventured slowly downstairs. Perhaps her mother knew something by now.

‘Have you heard?’ Her mum’s head snapped up the second she entered the room. Sophie’s mouth dried in an instant.
‘No, what?’ Her voice cracked. Something bad has happened. ‘I meant, have you heard anything from Amy yet?’
‘Crikey, Mum.’ Sophie’s hand pressed into her chest as she let out a sharp hiss of air. ‘I thought you meant . . .’
‘Oh, no. Sorry. I spoke to Rachel just now, and she said Erin had been staying at her dad’s a lot at weekends – you didn’t tell me about Erin’s dad moving in with that woman by the way – how come?’
‘Mum. Get to the point.’ Sophie transferred her weight on to one leg and crossed her arms.
‘Right, well, I’m assuming they’re probably together – Erin and Amy – because Rachel said she hadn’t heard from Erin.’
‘Actually, that does make sense. Dan said everyone got to the club except Erin and Amy. Good. That will be it then.’ But saying the words didn’t reassure her. There seemed no logical reason why Amy would bother to walk to Erin’s dad’s when her own house was nearer to town. She wasn’t even convinced they would go home together. They weren’t the best of friends – Amy, being older, had come on to the scene later, after school, and had kind of replaced Erin; becoming Sophie’s new best friend. That had never sat well with Erin. But for now, it was a theory which Sophie was willing to believe.
‘That’s what I’m hoping, Sophie, yes. Although it doesn’t let you off the hook.’
No. She guessed as much. Her mother would be at her every day now, trying to get to the bottom of why she had no memory of the night, why she had ended up wandering the streets alone, what the taxi driver had done to her. It was going to be a nightmare. But, as long as they were all safe – her girls – she could take whatever hassle was headed her way. It could’ve been worse.
Bailey’s deep growl at the window diverted their attention. His ear-grating bark filled the room. Sophie followed her mum to see what had upset him. For the second time in as many nights, there was a police car parked outside the house.
Now what?

Good, huh?  I really hope that’s piqued your interest as it’s a cracking book and definitely worth a read.

Smith & Sons (9)

I’ve been wanting to read Saving Sophie for some time now.  Well, since it appeared on NetGalley earlier this year.  But you know how life goes; sometimes things just don’t happen for one reason or another.  So imagine my joy when I was asked to feature on the blog tour in celebration of the paperback release with Avon Books.  Well, I couldn’t say no!  And I’m very glad I did because this is such an enjoyable read and exactly the book I needed to reignite my dwindling reading mojo.

The Finch family are slowly falling apart.  The relationship between parents Karen and Mike is becoming more strained by the day and 17 year old Sophie would rather keep herself to herself.  But after a night out with friends, Sophie is brought home by the police.  She’s dazed, confused and acting drunk.  But it’s only a couple of hours later, how has Sophie managed to consume that much alcohol in such a short space of time?!  Her parents are unable to make sense out of what she’s saying so she’s bundled off to bed, with her concerned parents planning a confrontation for the following morning.  Sophie wakes feeling worse for wear but is immediately distracted by a news that her friend, Amy is missing.  Then the body of a young woman matching Amy’s description is found.  What really happened on their night out?  And will the inappropriate photographs Sophie receives of herself help her remember?  Exactly what secrets have the Finch family been keeping…?

When I select a book to read, I want to feel ‘something’ and if that feeling is frustration or exasperation, then that’s as good as liking a character in my opinion.  I’m a firm believer that you don’t need to like characters to enjoy a book.  Heck, I read crime and psychological thrillers.  Sometimes I don’t want that warm fuzzy glow!  With that in mind, I instantly disliked husband Mike who came across as a bully and at times, a uninterested negligent father.  Mum Karen was a little whiney and played the part of the victim to perfection.  You find out more about Karen’s back story as you move through the book and I have to say, by the end of the novel, I had really warmed to her.  And as for Sophie, well…she’s 17, more interested in her friends than her family and suffering the hangover from hell.  There’s not a lot to like!

But somehow, somewhere along the line…I started to really like both Sophie and Karen (no change on the Mike front I’m afraid, still don’t like him!).  Karen suffers from agoraphobia which plays a huge part in the storyline.  When her condition was first revealed I thought, ‘how is Sam Carrington going to write this and make it interesting?’.  I’ll tell you, she writes it incredibly well.  At first I was dubious, but the whole story revolves around Karen.  Her dealings with her condition make for interesting reading.  There is a point when Karen’s best friend, Rachel really needs her.  I was in turmoil myself as on one hand I was thinking ‘go to your best friend, she needs you’ but on the other, I was fully understanding of how she was feeling.  Now, if that’s not good writing, I don’t know what is!

There are some rather large twists and turns thrown in to keep you on your toes.  The final showdown was an ‘edge of your seat’ moment for me.  I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading!  And that epilogue, oh it broke my heart.  I sort of saw it coming but that certainly didn’t lessen the impact.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  I loved the twists and turns, the way the characters morph from being really quite irritating to becoming firm favourites of mine and I absolutely loved that this book made me feel something.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Saving Sophie.

Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington was published in the UK by Avon Books on 15th December 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Avon Books |


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Smith & Sons (11)

author-pic-sam-carringtonSam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband and three children. She worked for the NHS for fifteen years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a Psychology degree she worked for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist. Before beginning her first novel, Sam wrote a number of short stories, several of which were published in popular women’s magazines. Other short stories were included in two charity anthologies.
Sam moved quickly on to novel writing and completed her first project within six months. Although this novel attracted attention from agents, it was her next that opened up opportunities. She entered this novel, with the working title Portrayal, into the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award in 2015 and was delighted when it was longlisted.
Being placed in such a prestigious competition was instrumental in her success securing a literary agent. When completed, this novel became SAVING SOPHIE, a psychological thriller which was published by Maze, HarperCollins as an ebook in August. The paperback and audio editions are publishing on 15th December.

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