#BookReview: Anything For Her by G.J. Minett (@GJMinett) @BonnierZaffre @1stMondayCrime #AnythingForHer

anything for her.jpg“You’d do anything for the one that got away . . . wouldn’t you?

When Billy Orr returns home to spend time with his dying sister, he bumps into his ex-girlfriend Aimi, the love of his life. He might not have seen her in eleven years, but Billy’s never forgotten her. He’d do anything for her then, and he’d do anything for her now.

When Aimi tells him that she wants to escape her abusive husband, Billy agrees to help her fake her own death. But is she still the Aimi that Billy remembers from all those years ago? 

Once Aimi disappears, Billy has to face the possibility that perhaps she had different reasons for disappearing – reasons that might be more dangerous than she’s led him to believe . . .

Sometimes trusting the one you love is the wrong thing to do.”

G.J. Minett’s books have been on my radar for a while now.  I’ve had Anything For Her‘s predecessor on my TBR since last Summer and it’s been giving me ‘the look’.  You know about ‘the look’, right?  The one that makes you want to forget about any other reading commitments you *may* have and just get stuck into another, taking you totally off-piste!  So I was delighted to see G.J. Minett’s name on the list for the May (..pril) First Monday Crime panel.  Finally, I would get to read one of this author’s books!

And I enjoyed it.  It’s a twisty slow burn of a tale which made me reach for my Sherlock Holmesesque deerstalker and try to figure out what was going on with Minett’s secretive cast of characters.  I failed, by the way – I couldn’t see ‘whodunit’ in Anything For Her.

Billy is an interesting character.  We get to see snippets into his early teenage years; the loving relationship he had with his terminally ill mother, the relationship he believed he had with his father.  What I really liked about Billy was the air of something being a little ‘off’ which he carries.  The reader knows early on that something isn’t quite right with Billy and that feeling built into a wonderful sense of unease for me.  Saying that having finished the book last night, I’m afraid I’m still none the wiser with regards to the true dynamics of Billy’s relationship with his father.  And that not knowing is gnawing away at me a little.

Billy and Aimi are an item.  In the throws of young, teenage love which Billy firmly believes is going to stand the test of time.  Fast forward eleven years and Billy is shocked to bump into Aimi in his sister’s local supermarket.  Billy, on a mercy mission having recently discovered his sister has a terminal illness, is both thrilled and surprised to be reunited with his one true love, despite her now being married to someone else.  As is Aimi, but for different reasons.  During a stroll along Camber Sands, Aimi confesses how bad her marriage is and shows Billy the bruises as proof.  What comes next is a devious plan to deceive her husband and his influential family, and escape to a new life overseas.  Once Aimi’s vanishing act has taken place with the help of the ever devoted Billy, he slowly becomes aware that the Aimi he met in Tesco and the Aimi from eleven years ago are now very different people…

There’s something really quite dark about both Billy and Aimi which appealed to my need for monstrous, manipulative characters in my books.  That was particularly the case with Billy, I never really felt I had a grasp on what he was fully capable of.  That doesn’t mean I necessarily liked him though.  Of all the characters in Anything For Her, the only one I felt any sympathy for or warmth towards was Billy’s sister, Mia.  Her acceptance of her condition and her pragmatic approach to dealing with the uncertainty of when things will end for her was really quite moving at times.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  The plot gradually works its way up to a surprising reveal but it’s the final act, that ending…which did it for me.  This book couldn’t have finished any other way, in my opinion.  A perfect finale.  If you’re looking for a well written, character-driven psychological thriller to submerse yourself in, then you may just have found it!  I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another book by G.J. Minett.

Four stars out of five.

G.J. Minnet will be appearing at the Mayril (it’s May’s First Monday panel but because of the Bank Holiday here in the UK it’s happening in April instead!) First Monday Crime on Monday 30th April 2018. Graham (G.J.) will be appearing alongside Robert Goddard, Simone Buchholz, Cathi Unsworth and moderator Joe Haddow. The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 6.30pm on Monday 30th April at City University, College Building, A130. Click HERE to book your FREE ticket or hop over to the First Monday Crime website for more information.

Anything For Her by G.J. Minett was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 22nd March 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

gj minett.jpgGraham was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and lived there for 18 years before studying for a degree in Modern and Medieval Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge.

He taught for several years, first in Cheltenham and then in West Sussex before opting to go part-time and start an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. Completing the course in 2008, he gained a distinction for the dissertation under the guidance of novelist, Alison MacLeod and almost immediately won the Segora Short Story Competition with ‘On the Way Out’.

Other awards soon followed, most notably his success in the 2010 Chapter One novel competition with what would eventually become the opening pages of his debut novel. He was signed up by Peter Buckman of the Ampersand Agency, who managed to secure a two-book deal with twenty7, the digital-first adult fiction imprint of Bonnier Publishing.

“The Hidden Legacy” was published as an eBook in November 2015 and the paperback version was published in August 2016. The second book in the deal, entitled “Lie in Wait”, was published as an eBook in August 2016 and the paperback version in March 2017.

Graham lives with his wife and children in West Sussex but retains close links with the rest of his family in Cheltenham.

Author Links:Twitter | Website | Facebook |

Author image and bio © http://www.grahamminett.com/

 

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#BookReview: Our House by Louise Candlish (@louise_candlish) @simonschusterUK #OurHouse #DomesticSuspense

9781471168031 (3)“FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE.
When Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband Bram have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years and have no intention of selling. How can this other family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared when she needs him most?

FOR RICHER, FOR POORER.
Bram has made a catastrophic mistake and now he is paying. Unable to see his wife, his children or his home, he has nothing left but to settle scores. As the nightmare takes grip, both Bram and Fi try to make sense of the events that led to a devastating crime. What has he hidden from her – and what has she hidden from him? And will either survive the chilling truth – that there are far worse things you can lose than your house?

TILL DEATH US DO PART.”

I was kindly invited to take part in the blog tour for Our House by Jess at Simon & Schuster, and if you were around over the weekend you would have seen a brilliant guest post on the blog written by the author, Louise Candlish.  When Jess approached me about the tour, I didn’t think I would be able to fit a review in.  But, in the end, I just couldn’t help myself!  (And I know I promised you that review on Monday but I’m afraid life got in the way a little, as it does to all of us sometimes.)

I did, however, finish reading Our House over the weekend and I’m still feeling a number of the unsettling emotions it has left me with.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is a GREAT book but flipping heck, it made me really quite uncomfortable at times.  It’s a strange one (a good strange one).  I struggled to put it down but at the same time, I didn’t want to pick it again once I had put it down.  Isn’t that a weird thing to say?!  I knew things were only going to get worse for the Lawson family and whilst I was seriously intrigued by their situation, at points, I wasn’t sure I wanted to witness them.  It was like I wanted to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible.  Gosh, I hope I’m making some sort of sense here.  It felt a little like slowing down to gawp as you pass a road traffic accident, a little ghoulish…

Fi returns home after a romantic break with her new man to find a young couple moving into their family home.  There is no mistake about it; the funds have been transferred and the names on the deeds have been changed.  Fi’s beloved family home is no longer hers.  But this is the first she’s heard about it.  Fi would never even consider selling their house; it was meant to be passed down to her boys.  It was their inheritance.  To complicate matters Fi’s estranged husband, Bram is missing.  He’s not picking up his phone.  No one has seen hide nor hair of him.  What’s going on?  How could this happen?  Are Fi and Bram the victims of some complex property fraud, or is the source of the crime much closer to home than anyone imagines…

The way Candlish has told the story is exceptional.  We meet Fi as she discovers the horrible truth, her home is no longer her own.  The reader watches from the shadows as she argues and debates with the new owners, urging them to understand what a terrible mistake this must all be.  But it has to be true, the paperwork says so, as does the missing two million pounds.  Which takes us to ‘The Victim‘, a Podcast that “tells the true story of a crime directly in the words of the victim. ‘The Victim’ is not an investigation, but a privileged insight into an innocent person’s suffering.”  [taken from Louise Candlish’s website].  These sections are where we get to see the real Fi; her naivety, her good nature, her gullibility and her strong love and devotion to her two sons.  The reader also gets to hear Bram’s side of the story which doesn’t make for a pleasant read.  Bram is an idiot.  He’s probably King Idiot actually!  I wanted to thump him at times and, truth be told, I also wanted to give him a big cuddle and tell him it would be alright in the end (that really isn’t a spoiler by the way!).  Bram’s devotion to his boys, if nothing else, melted my heart.  The dawning realisation of what was happening to him and what the repercussions of that was tough going at times.

Before I turn this into the longest review I have ever written, I want to talk briefly about the end of this book.  I was warned about a big twist and it really is quite devastating as books go.  It wasn’t a WOW moment for me though, I found myself inhaling sharply and then slumping in a heap.  If at any point in the book, you feel any kind of fondness or warmth for the characters, I expect you may feel the same.  Several days later and I’m still turning over the story of Fi and Bram in my mind.  I wish it had ended differently for them, but the ending was perfect.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s quite different to many other domestic suspense novels I have read over the years.  It’s a triumphant step up for a genre that I often feel can be quite samey.  Full of emotion, probably more than I could handle at times, and totally devastating in places.  With characters that leap off the page at you and with situations you could easily find yourself in, Our House is a must read.

Four out of five stars.

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

Our House by Louise Candlish was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster (UK) on 5th April 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

Louise CandlishLouise Candlish was born in Hexham, Northumberland, and grew up in the Midlands town of Northampton. She studied English at University College London and lives in Herne Hill in South London with her husband and daughter. She is the bestselling author of eleven novels, including The Swimming Pool (2016) and The Sudden Departure of the Frasers (2015), Her new novel Our House, will be published in April 2018 by Simon & Schuster in the UK and in August 2018 by Berkley in the US.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers has been optioned for TV by Hartswood Films.

Besides books, the things Louise likes best are: coffee; TV (so much TV, too much, probably); cats and dogs; salted caramel; France (especially the Ile de Re); Italy (especially Sicily); tennis; soup; Vanity Fair magazine; ‘Book at Bedtime’; lasagne; heavy metal; ‘The Archers’; driving towards the sea (but not into it); anything at the Royal Opera House; white wine; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (or, failing that, a Starbar).

Author Links: | Twitter | Website | Facebook | Instagram |

#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: No Comment by Graham Smith (@GrahamSmith1972) @caffeinenights @rararesources #NoComment

No Comment.jpg

When a single mother, Julie Simon, is found in her kitchen with a stab wound to her stomach, Cumbria’s Major Crimes Team are handed the case.

Under the supervision of DI Campbell and with advice from his former DI, Harry Evans, DC Amir Bhaki fights to discover who assaulted an innocent woman and left her with life-threatening injuries.

Nothing is as it first appears and when the team looks into Julie’s life they uncover a hidden sex-life that may just hold the key to the identity of her attacker.”

I am thrilled to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the No Comment blog blitz which I share with some pretty fabulous bloggers. No Comment is the latest DI Harry Evans novella, written by Graham Smith and published yesterday (that’s Thursday 22nd March 2018) by Caffeine Nights.

I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a previous DI Harry Evans novella, Matching the Evidence plus the latest full-length novel in the series, I Know Your Secret. More recently Smith has been focussing on his Jake Boulder series (which I also love) so I was delighted to hear Harry and the team were to make a very welcome, long-awaited return.

Smith has managed to pack one heck of an almighty punch into this latest Major Crimes Team novella. It was so good to be reacquainted with the Cumbrian MCT again. The memories of these well developed and fascinating characters came flooding back. And for the record, I still don’t like DC Lauren Phillips! I was, however, feeling slightly more positive towards the dastardly DI Campbell this time around. So who knows, my feelings for Lauren may change with time…ha! (I’m due to read the next full-length novel in the series, titled When the Waters Recede, soon. By the end, I expect I’ll be back to loathing Campbell again. He’s that kind of character!).

One of the things I love about this series is the way that every member of the team is an individual and they have something unique to add to the story. Smith seems to effortlessly spotlight one character in particular per novel/novella giving you an insight into what makes them tick. This time the story focusses on DC Amir Bhaki and his gut feeling about the violent scene he encounters in Julie Simon’s kitchen.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s probably best to read the previous novellas and full-length novels before you get to No Comment though. The MCT carries a lot of history and there are things which may not make immediate sense otherwise. In my usual wannabe amateur detective way, I was trying to work out whodunit and why-they-dunit but I completely failed. The twist is quite unexpected and will leave you with a gaping jaw. It did me, anyway! Smith is such a talented writer and I cannot wait to read more from him. Roll on When the Waters Recede!

Four stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an eARC of No Comment. The above review is my own unbiased opinion. My thanks to Graham Smith for asking me to feature on the blog tour.

No Comment by Graham Smith was published in the UK by Caffeine Nights on 22nd March 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook format (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

No Comment Full Banner.jpg

about the author3

Graham Smith Author Pic

Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

He is an internationally best-selling Kindle author and has four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team, and three novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009

Graham is the founder of Crime and Publishment, a weekend of crime-writing classes which includes the chance for attendees to pitch their novels to agents and publishers. Since the first weekend in 2013, eight attendees have gone on to sign publishing contracts.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BookReview: The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne | @bookouture #TheBabysitter

the babysitter cover

“You trust her with your family. Would you trust her with your life?

Mark and Melissa Cain are thrilled to have found Jade, a babysitter who is brilliant with their young children. Having seen her own house burn to the ground, Jade needs them as much as they need her. Moving Jade into the family home can only be a good thing, can’t it?

As Mark works long hours as a police officer and Melissa struggles with running a business, the family become ever more reliant on their babysitter, who is only too happy to help. And as Melissa begins to slip into depression, it’s Jade who is left picking up the pieces.

But Mark soon notices things aren’t quite as they seem. Things at home feel wrong, and as Mark begins to investigate their seemingly perfect sitter, what he discovers shocks him to his core. He’s met Jade before. And now he suspects he might know what she wants …

Mark is in a race against time to protect his family. But what will he find as he goes back to his family home?

If you loved reading The Girl on the Train, Behind Closed Doors and The Sister, you’ll love the suspense of The Babysitter. This unputdownable read will have you turning the pages until way after dark.”

The Babysitter is the first Bookouture release from Sheryl Browne, having previously published her work with ChocLit. Having met Sheryl a couple of years ago (she’s such a darling), I was keen to read her latest book. I also took part in the blog blitz for The Babysitter when it was first released by hosting an extract. You can read that post by clicking HERE.

First up, I can see this book being huge. It’s a well-written psychological thriller with an antagonist you will love to hate. Mark and Melissa Cain are likeable enough characters if maybe a touch too nice (or maybe clueless) at times. Everything that follows all comes down to personal taste. And to prove that point I will link to a number of very positive reviews, written by my blogger peers, at the end of this review. I wanted to love this book. Really, I did. I certainly didn’t hate it, but I struggled to find any love for it either. I feel like I’m heading towards a reading slump at the moment and the only type of fiction that grabs my attention, that gets any kind of real interest from me is on the darker side. For me, The Babysitter is the total opposite of dark fiction (although there was one scene with a pig, which I can safely say was my favourite part!).

I did thoroughly enjoy the prologue which, if you read the extract I featured on publication day, you will see hints at some fairly dark themes. I think I wanted more of that and less of the happy little middle-class family. Aspects of Jade’s character I really liked; her malevolence, her deviousness and her anger. But other characters were just too nice, too naive and too accepting for my tastes. And I certainly wouldn’t want DI Mark Cain involved in any investigation I was part of! This story is not all sweetness and light, by the way. I feel that’s how I’m making it sound but it really isn’t. One of the characters is fairly evil in their intentions and disgustingly manipulative. I’m afraid it just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted a lot more.

Would I recommend this book? I’m not sure. If, like me, you prefer to read darker tales then no, this book isn’t for you. But if you enjoy psychological thrillers then don’t let me put you off – I would hate for that to happen. I read the book from start to finish despite not being fully invested. And in all honesty, I would pick up another book written by Sheryl Browne without a moment’s doubt.

What other reviewers are saying about The Babysitter: Jen Med’s Book Reviews | Chelle’s Book Reviews | Novel Gossip | Sweet Little Book Blog |

The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne was published in the UK by Bookouture on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

about the author3

sheryl browne

Sheryl Browne brings you powerful psychological thrillers and contemporary fiction. Sheryl’s latest psychological thriller THE BABYSITTER – the first of a three-book deal – comes to you from fabulous BOOKOUTURE. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and previously writing for award winning Choc Lit, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

So why does Sheryl write in two genres? Quoting E. L. Doctorow, Sheryl says: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights…” This she thinks sums up a writer’s journey, you never quite know where you are going until you get there. You might start with an outline, but a strong character will always divert from the plot. If Sheryl’s not sure where a character is going, she simply has to trust him to show her the way. Plus, according to one reviewer, she also has a scary insight into the mind of a psychopath.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell (@Caroline_writes) #ThomasandMercer @midaspr #SilentVictim

silent victim.jpg“Emma’s darkest secrets are buried in the past. But the truth can’t stay hidden for long.

Emma is a loving wife, a devoted mother…and an involuntary killer. For years she’s been hiding the dead body of the teacher who seduced her as a teen.

It’s a secret that might have stayed buried if only her life had been less perfect. A promotion for Emma’s husband, Alex, means they can finally move to a bigger home with their young son. But with a buyer lined up for their old house, Emma can’t leave without destroying every last trace of her final revenge…

Returning to the shallow grave in the garden, she finds it empty. The body is gone.

Panicked, Emma confesses to her husband. But this is only the beginning. Soon, Alex will discover things about her he’ll wish he’d learned sooner. And others he’ll long to forget.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the Silent Victim blog tour.  Silent Victim is the latest release from one of my favourite authors, Caroline Mitchell.  I have been a fan of Mitchell’s writing for some time now but this (I’m ashamed to admit) is the first of her standalone psychological thrillers I have read.  I normally go giddy over her superb police procedurals which, being a former police detective, have bucketloads of realism in them.  But this…..this wonderfully addictive piece of fiction blew me away!  There was something so different, so beautifully dark about the writing that I was pretty smitten from the very first page.

We meet Emma (great name, there aren’t enough ‘Emma’s’ in the books I read!), our lead character whilst she is burying a body!  The reader immediately knows that this is not a normal night out for Emma and disposing of bodies in her palatial back garden is not something she does to pass the time.  I could feel the character’s disbelief, the sheer terror of the situation and the realisation of what she had done.  If the prologue of Silent Victim doesn’t draw you head first into this compulsive story then there’s no hope left for you I’m afraid.

Life is….good for Emma, her husband and their young son, Jamie.  Alex, Emma’s husband is desperate to return to the North though, to Leeds where he was born and spent many happy years.  So when a promotion lands in his lap, he grabs it with both hands.  Emma would like to make a clean break of it too, but is fully aware of the secrets buried in her garden.  Going behind Emma’s back Alex manages to find an eager cash buyer for their home and starts the search for a suitable property in Leeds.  The implications of what this could mean hit Emma hard.  What if the new owners discover the shallow grave on their property?  She would certainly go to prison, and who would care for Jamie then?  Moving the remains is the only answer, she needs to hide them somewhere they will never be found.  But when Emma returns to the burial site, there is something missing.  A body.  Where are the remains of the teacher who groomed her when she was 15?

Wowsers!  What a book.  I feel emotionally drained and quite exhausted after reading Emma’s story.  But what an addictive and thrilling story from the pen of Ms Mitchell.  I couldn’t put this one down, nor did I actually want to.  Normal life was officially put on hold!

I was repulsed by smarmy, manipulative Luke and his despicable treatment of teenage Emma.  The way he spun her so many revolting lies until he got what he wanted and then pushed her aside as if she were a mere inconvenience.  My heart broke repeatedly for teenage Emma, I could really feel her hurt.  Saying that, Emma is a very troubled character from start to finish but I very much liked her.  I can’t say the same for her husband, Alex.  I would be fuming if my husband sold our house from underneath us without consulting me first.  Alex made a couple of other decisions without Emma’s involvement at other points throughout the book and boy, did it wind me up!

Would I recommend this book?  Definitely.  It’s brilliantly paced, stuffed full of suspense and you never really know what to expect next.  I loved how utterly horrible Luke Priestwood, Emma’s teacher, was.  A firm favourite for ‘villain of the year’ in my eyes and a character for us readers to despise.  But he wasn’t the only one with a touch of the darkness within and that, for me, added so much to the story.  Mitchell’s writing goes from strength to strength.  I absolutely flipping loved it!

Five out of five stars.

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

Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell was published in the UK by Thomas and Mercer on 1st March 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

Other books by Caroline Mitchell I reviewed on damppebbles: | The Silent Twin | Death Note | Sleep Tight | Murder Game |

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about the author3

caroline mitchellAn international #1 and USA Today bestselling thriller author, Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family in a village on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, Caroline has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time, with over half a million copies of her books sold.

As well as her crime series, Caroline also writes stand-alone psychological thrillers. The most recent, Silent Victim reached the Amazon number 1 spot in the UK, US and Australia. Her highly anticipated DI Amy Winter series is published by Thomas & Mercer. The first book in the series, Truth and Lies, launches on 13th September. Her works have been translated into four different languages and one of her books is featured as an interactive app, due for release in 2018.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Pact by S.E. Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) @bookouture #ThePact

the pact.jpg“You made a promise to your sister. It could destroy your daughter.

The Daughter 
15-year-old Rosie lies in hospital fighting for her life. She’s trying to tell her mother what happened to her, and how she got there, but she can’t speak the words out loud. 

The Mother
Rosie’s mother Toni has a secret. She had a traumatic childhood, and she and her sister Bridget made each other a promise thirty years ago: that they could never speak the truth about what they went through as children, and that they would protect each other without asking for help from others, no matter what…

Rosie was Toni’s second chance to get things right: a happy, talented girl with her whole life ahead of her. Having lost her husband in a tragic accident, Toni has dedicated her life to keeping Rosie safe from harm. 

But Rosie has plans that her mother doesn’t know about. She has dreams and ambitions – of love, of a career, of a life beyond the sheltered existence that her mother has created for her. But the secrets Rosie has been keeping have now put her life in danger. 

The Pact
In order to save Rosie, Toni may have to break her lifelong promise to her sister… and open doors to her past she hoped would remain closed forever. 

The Pact is a chilling psychological thriller about the lies we will tell to save our children. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, Apple Tree Yard and The Sister.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on The Pact blog tour, which I share with two fabulous bloggers; Jen over at Jen Med’s Book Reviews and Kaisha over at The Writing Garnet.  The Pact is written by one of my favourite authors, S.E. Lynes and was published today by Bookouture so I would like to take this opportunity to wish all involved a very happy publication day!  S.E. Lynes wrote one of my very favourite books of 2016, the incredible Valentina which put her well and truly on my radar as an author.  Last year Lynes signed a deal with the mighty Bookouture and published her first book with them, Mother, towards the end of 2017.  For a reminder of my review, please click HERE.

When I heard a second Bookouture release was in the pipeline from Susie Lynes I jumped at the chance to read it.  And flipping heck, I was not disappointed.  One of my favourite things about The Pact is how uneasy the reader feels from pretty much page one.  I felt very apprehensive, I could sense something wasn’t quite right with the picture Lynes was painting for me and I loved it!  If you’re a fan of suspense then this is a must-read.

We meet Toni, widowed mother of one teenage daughter, Rosie.  Rosie is a budding theatre star but lacks the confidence to push herself to the glittering heights others feel she could achieve.  Not helped by Toni, her overprotective mother.  Lending a more pragmatic and considered point of view to proceedings is Toni’s older sister, Bridget. Both Bridget and Toni have been through a lot; a traumatic childhood featuring unimaginable abuse for Toni, for Bridget the need to protect her sister from the horrors but feeling a constant failure.  That’s where the pact came in.  A promise made many years ago that no matter what, the two sisters would look after each other and not rely on the help of others.  But the pact could be the sisters undoing….

I absolutely loved Bridget.  She became a bit of a superhero for me and at times I found myself cheering her on as I read (thankfully this all happened in my head otherwise my family may have been giving me the odd strange look!).  I totally believed in Lynes’s characters; I could picture them, I could hear their dialogue in my head (more strange looks but from everyone reading this, this time haha!) and I truly felt for them.  I didn’t like Toni as much as I liked Bridget but that was due to her overbearing, smothering nature.

Lynes has cleverly used the vocabulary used by the ‘yoof’ of today along with text speak and emojis when writing Rosie’s interactions with friends.  All in all, this added to the believability factor making shy, naive young Rosie all the more real for me.  Throughout the pages of The Pact my heart broke for her in many different ways.

As usual, I was looking out for clues from the very start of the book and was able to see where a couple of storyline threads were heading.  Can I give you some advice?  Don’t do what I did.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it superbly gripping from start to finish despite being able to see where things were going.  I wonder how much it would have knocked my socks off if I hadn’t been doing that.  Really, don’t do what I did.  Read it with an open mind and see where Lynes takes you.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, definitely.  Very emotional, incredibly tense and a wonderful, wonderful read focussing on modern day fears and a parent’s worst nightmare.  I wanted to hide behind my hands at points whilst reading, peeking out from behind my splayed fingers.  Lynes is a very talented writer and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Pact by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 27th February 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

S E Lynes Author PhotoAfter graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

Review © Emma Welton | damppebbles.com

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Hydra by Matt Wesolowski (@ConcreteKraken) @OrendaBooks

Hydra LATEST COVER .jpg“One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out. As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess… Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.”

It is my pleasure to welcome you to my stop on the Hydra blog tour which I share with one of my very favourite bookish people, the incredible Liz over at Liz Loves Books.  If you haven’t discovered Liz’s blog yet then you must!  Hydra is the second book from the pen of author Matt Wesolowski to be published by Orenda Books.  Wesolowski’s Orenda debut, Six Stories, absolutely blew my mind last year and took it’s place proudly on my top ten (*mumble, mumble* may have been twelve) books of the year.  If you need a reminder, or if you missed my review the first time then please click HERE.  I think it’s fair to say I LOVED Six Stories.

So I was strangely apprehensive (and of course, excited!) starting Hydra.  I knew before turning the first page that the story was in a similar vein to Six Stories.  If you haven’t experienced the incredible Six Stories (you really should get yourself a copy) then let me explain.  Six Stories is a series of podcasts hosted by Scott King.  King rakes over cold cases – not to necessarily solve the mystery but to encourage new discussion and debate.  King provides his listeners with the details of a particular case but from six different standpoints.  Six different viewpoints all bringing that little bit of extra information to the front, fleshing it out for his listeners.

The focus of King’s latest investigation is the Macleod Massacre of 2014.  If there’s one way for a book to get its hook into me then that is to mention a blood-soaked spree.  I know, I’m strange.  But I’ve never shied away from the fact that I like blood, guts and gore in my books.  The reader gets so much more than that though (and it really isn’t all that gory, I promise).  This is not a book about solving a murder case – we know ‘whodunnit’ and it was Arla Macleod – it’s all about the WHY.  Why did Arla kill her family that day?  Why did she change so dramatically?  What was the cause?  And if like me, you don’t see the incredibly clever twist coming then I can guarantee it will be a revelation.  Wow!

If there is one thing Wesolowski excels at, it’s giving his reader chills.  Hydra, like its predecessor, did an excellent job of making me feel nervous and apprehensive.  The author is a master at creating a scene and dropping you slap, bang right in the action.  You live the moment with the characters which for me added extra eerieness and I was completely absorbed in the moment.  Nothing else mattered.  Incredibly atmospheric, perfectly eerie, I absolutely loved Hydra.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely, without a doubt.  Wesolowski is one of my very favourite authors.  He writes in a totally different, exciting and original way and I love to read his books.  I will say this though, Hydra is absolutely brilliant but I did prefer Six Stories.  There are many reviewers out there saying that this book is Wesolowski’s best yet, but I have to disagree.  It’s still better than MANY other books I have read in the past 12 months but Six Stories will always have a special place in my heart.  In fact, if you’re picking up a copy of Hydra then add a copy of Six Stories whilst you’re at it.  You won’t regret it.

An easy five out of five stars.

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

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th January 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

Matt W Picture 1 (1).jpgMatt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio.

Author Links:Twitter | Facebook |

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

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

Then Summer vanishes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five out of five stars.

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

*Ant & Dec
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about the author3

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

Author Links:Twitter |

#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne @Abigail_Author @BloodhoundBook

Abigail Osborne - The Puppet Master_cover_high res.jpg“Billie is hiding from the world in fear of a man who nearly destroyed her. But a chance meeting with budding journalist, Adam, sparks a relationship that could free her from her life of isolation and fear.

Unbeknown to Billie, Adam knows exactly who Billie is and is determined to expose her and get justice for the lives he believes she has ruined.

But first, he needs to convince her to open up to him. As an unwanted attraction blossoms between them, Adam comes to realise that all is not as it seems.

Who is really pulling the strings? And are Adam and Billie both being played?

One thing is for sure, The Master wants his puppets back – and he’ll do anything to keep them.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on The Puppet Master blog blitz which I share with six other awesome bloggers.  The Puppet Master is author Abigail Osborne’s debut novel and was published in eBook by Bloodhound Books on 13th November 2017, having previously been self-published last year.

The Puppet Master is a rather twisted love story which I enjoyed but found hard going at times due to the disturbing themes within.  Billie’s tormentor is by far the nastiest piece of work in this book.  I was, however, flooded with emotion at points thanks to Billie’s hideous mother and her negligent treatment of her tween-age daughter.  Regular readers of the blog will know that deeply flawed and negligent parents really get my goat and Billie’s mother is a prime example of the type of character who makes my blood boil.

We first meet grown-up Billie as she lives out her isolated existence in Worcester.  Billie hides.  That’s it.  She hides from everyone, from everything, she hides from life which happens around her and to other people.  A chance encounter in the local bookshop cafe sends her spinning when she unwittingly meets journalist Adam.  Adam shows a keen interest in Billie when others easily ignore her.  Billie struggles to understand why he would want to talk her so she does the only thing she knows how to do in that situation and that’s run.  But Adam appears to be her knight in shining armour.  When she is set upon by a group of teenagers, Adam strides to the rescue (minus one shoe!).  From there, their relationship slowly blossoms.  But both Billie and Adam have secrets.  Billie has a traumatic past which she wants to keep hidden, but Adam has the biggest secret of all….

I was both fascinated and appalled watching Billie and Adam’s relationship grow.  The levels of manipulation within this book are something else altogether!  I wanted desperately to like Billie but found it really hard to do so.  I felt sympathy for her, I wanted her to be safe and free from fear but I couldn’t warm to her in the way I wanted to.  Adam was probably my preferred character in the novel but it is quite normal for me to like the darker characters, the more mysterious personalities, often the bad guys.

The story starts in the present, moves back in time to the late ’90s/early ’00s for part two and returns to the present day for the final section.  Part two, which features the flashback scenes, was hard to read with some disturbing scenes and acts alluded to.  I loved the menace in part three; the simmering danger imposed by one particular character.  I enjoyed the third section purely because the threat was more violent than anything else and that (weirdly) sits better with me than any other threat.  Part three (the conclusion, the reveal) was my favourite part of the book.

Would I recommend this book?  I would and I take my hat off to Abigail Osborne as this must have been a really tough book to write.  Plus, it’s her debut which makes it even more astounding as it’s a subject many would steer clear of, even after writing for many, many years.  Osborne is an intriguing new voice in the psychological thriller world and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read an eARC of The Puppet Master.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.  My thanks to Sarah Hardy and Bloodhound Books for asking me to join the tour and for providing me with a review copy.

The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 13th November 2017 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

BLOG BLITZ (3)

about the author3

downloadAbigail is originally from the Lake District but moved to the West Midlands for University where she completed an English Literature & History degree and also met her husband. She is a passionate reader and has an unsustainable collection of books. This obsession with books has led to her creating her own Dewey decimal system and she has been known to issue fines to family and friends if her book is not returned on time. ‘The Puppet Master’ is Abigail’s debut novel and has unleashed a passion for writing. When not writing or reading Abigail is usually playing her violin or hiding from her much too energetic cats. She also works as a Needs Assessor for disabled university students in the West Midlands.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BookReview: The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis (@tinaseskis) @PenguinUKBooks @MichaelJBooks

the honeymoon.jpg“There’s trouble in paradise . . .

For as long as she can remember, Jemma has been planning the perfect honeymoon. A fortnight’s retreat to a five-star resort in the Maldives, complete with luxury villas, personal butlers and absolute privacy.

It should be paradise. But it’s turned into a nightmare.

Because the man Jemma married a week ago has just disappeared from the island without a trace. And now her perfect new life is vanishing just as quickly before her eyes.

After everything they’ve been through together, how can this be happening? Is there anyone on the island who Jemma can trust? And above all – where has her husband gone?”

I consider myself to be a very lucky blogger at the moment.  I have read some BRILLIANT novels over the last couple of weeks, this one included.  The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis has been eyeing me up from the bookcase for a little while now.  Occasionally it gave me the odd wink and come-hither look but I had to be strong and stick to my blog tour reads.  Not the case now, of course!  Now I can pick and choose what I read and when I read it.  And oh my gosh, I’m so glad I picked The Honeymoon.

Jemma and her husband have finally made it down the aisle and have jetted off to the exotic Maldives for their once in a lifetime honeymoon.  Except there’s a problem.  Jemma’s brand new husband has gone missing.  The blushing bride has somewhat vague memories of the last time she saw her beloved thanks to the delicious and abundant cocktails available on demand.  And oh boy, she certainly demanded!  Paradise starts to look a little more sinister, particularly when Jemma’s mother-in-law arrives to stick her venomous claws in.  What happened to her husband?  Was Jemma anything to do with his disappearance?  If only she could remember….

I loved this book.  It was so easy to read and incredibly hard to put down.  I loved the flashback sequences where the reader is given an insight into Jemma’s relationship with her then fiance.  I have to say, what a weird relationship it is!  At points I wanted Jemma to throw her hands in the air and walk away from it all.  I loved Jemma you see.  Although her neediness to get married did irk me somewhat at times.  But a lot of us have been there, eh girls and boys?  Just waiting for the other half to propose…😉

There are so many suspects, so many possibilities on the table that you can’t help but turn amateur detective.  I had a number of suspects in mind along with the thought that he may have just decided to do a runner!  What I didn’t expect was that ending.  What a shock, I had never considered THAT as an ending.  OK, maybe it’s a smidge far fetched but who cares – it was AWESOME and completely appealed to my darker side!

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely.  It’s got bucketloads of lovely suspense, a couple of rather large twists which will knock you for six and a leading lady I couldn’t help but love (I’m not sure you’re supposed to by the way but I like to break the rules!).  Seskis’s writing is very compelling and I will be making a point of reading more from this author in the future.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books – Penguin UK on 1st June 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

tina seskis.jpgI grew up in Hampshire, England, where my father worked at Heathrow for British Airways and my mother was in sales. My parents bestowed upon me a certain degree of eccentricity: my dad amongst other things built a boat in the front garden on our commuter belt housing estate, moved us into a touring caravan when our new house wasn’t built, and took us all over the world with his free air travel and limited budget.  I think part of my story-telling is shaped by those experiences.

I studied business at the University of Bath and then worked for over twenty years in marketing, advertising and online sales, with varying degrees of success, before starting to write.

I originally wrote One Step Too Far for my mum, whilst attending a local writing class on a Thursday afternoon. I completed my second novel When We Were Friends (formerly called A Serpentine Affair) in 2011.  It took me way longer to finally get the books published, and One Step Too Far is now available in over 60 countries.

I live in North London with my husband and son, and currently write full-time(ish).

Author Links: | Twitter | Website | Facebook |

Author image and bio © http://tinaseskis.com/about-tina-seskis/