#BookReview: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson @BloomsburyRaven #NeverHaveIEver #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (7/15)

never have I ever

“It starts as a game at a book group one night. Never Have I Ever… done something I shouldn’t.

But Amy Whey has done something she shouldn’t. And Roux, the glamorous newcomer to Amy’s suburban neighbourhood, knows exactly what that is.

Roux promises she will go away – if Amy plays by her rules.

But Amy isn’t prepared to lose everything. She’s going to fight back, and in this escalating game of cat and mouse, there can be only one winner.”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my review of Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson. Never Have I Ever was published on 8th August 2019 by Raven Books and is available in hardcover, audio and ebook formats. I chose Never Have I Ever as my seventh #15BooksofSummer challenge read and received a free eARC of this book but that has in no way influenced my review.

It’s not often I read a ‘teaser’ or sample of a book. I prefer to read the entire thing from start to finish, at my own (some would say, very slow) pace. So when a teaser of Never Have I Ever appeared on NetGalley I planned to walk on by. But that didn’t actually happen. I found myself drawn to this book so I broke the habit of a lifetime and downloaded the first chapter. Looking for something to kill an hour one day in between moving the kids from one after school activity to another, I started to read my short snippet of Never Have I Ever. I was instantly drawn into the world of these women with the interloper in their midst. The exotic Roux who usurped the mumsy book club leader, Charlotte, and made herself very much at home in Amy’s basement having recently moved into the local rental. Roux instantly ruffles a number of feathers, flatters a number of the more timid women and makes her mark on the group. But as the alcohol flows some of their most closely guarded secrets are revealed, all for the momentary thrill of shocking their peers. A game of ‘never have I ever’ takes a more sinister twist and Amy is left wondering exactly what mysterious Roux knows about her past. And that’s where the first chapter ended (!) and I was left hankering after the rest of the story. Thankfully my NetGalley request was approved shortly after that so I didn’t have to wait *too* long for the rest of Roux and Amy’s story!

And what a story it is! This is a wonderful multi-layered book and I was completely drawn in to the lives of the characters. I loved Amy and her sass. I desperately wanted her to succeed in her plan to win the game and keep her dark past hidden from her family and maintain the life she had built for herself. But I also adored Roux who is darkness and wickedness personified. Good..ish versus evil. The battle is well and truly ON in Never Have I Ever and I savoured every last minute of it. This is an engrossing book with a brilliant plot but the characters are everything. If you don’t feel invested in Amy’s plight by the end of the book then I’m afraid you’ve done it all wrong.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes! But brace yourself for the unexpected. I don’t want to say anything else about the plot as I already feel I’ve said too much. However, the ending is perfect. I couldn’t work out how the author was going to finish this Battle Royale between these two brilliant adversaries but Jackson does it with absolute aplomb. One of the most fascinating psychological suspense novels I have read in a long time. Amy and Roux have made themselves at home in my memory and I don’t think they’ll be moving out anytime soon.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Never Have I Ever. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson was published in the UK by Raven Books on 8th August 2019 and is available in hardcover, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links (they’re starred*) which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk* | amazon.com | Waterstones* | BookDepository* | Goodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson’s newest book, Never Have I Ever, will launch in July of 2019. You can check out her previous eight novels and other work here. Joshilyn’s books have been translated into a dozen languages, have won SIBA’s Novel of the Year award, have three times been #1 Book Sense Pick, have twice won Georgia Author of the Year awards, have three times been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, and have been a finalist for the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction.

A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of both her own novels and the books of other writers; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, won three Earphones awards, made the 2012 Audible All-Star list for highest listener ranks/reviews, and garnered three Listen Up awards from Publisher’s Weekly.

She serves on the board of Reforming Arts, a nonprofit that runs education-in-prison and reentry programs. Reforming Arts fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills, encouraging students to build livable lives both during and post-incarceration. Through this organization, Joshilyn has taught creative writing, composition, and literature inside Georgia’s maximum security facility for women.

Joshilyn learned to scuba-dive in order to write Never Have I Ever, and now she and her husband Scott are both avid divers. They live in Decatur, Georgia with their two kids, two entitled cats, and a modestly-sized dog.

Author photo and biog © https://www.joshilynjackson.com/

#BookReview: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley @fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK #TheHuntingParty

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“In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.”

There are some books you see and you know you HAVE to read them. It may be a striking cover, it may be an intriguing blurb or it may just be a feeling in your gut that you’re going to miss out on something GREAT if you don’t read a particular book. I can safely say it was all of the above for me when it came to The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a massive fan of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and I had everything crossed that this book was going to have echoes of Christie’s brilliant novel about it. It certainly does but with a wonderfully modern twist to the tale and it stands, two feet firmly on the ground, on its own merit. I love the idea of a group of people completely stranded in a vast inhospitable landscape. People you *think* you know but one of them is a murderer. Who is it? How well do you really know these people? And could you be their next victim…?

University friends Miranda, Katie, Julien, Nick, Giles, Samira and Mark plus the addition of a couple of partners, Bo and Emma, head north from London to the Scottish Highlands for New Year. It’s going to be the holiday of a lifetime, all meticulously planned by prim and proper Emma. However, over the years those strong bonds formed at Oxford have started to break a little. Everyone is busy with their careers or children so it’s tough to find the time to spend together. There’s no escape this New Year though as they’ll be living in each other pockets, miles from anywhere. Just how long will the friends be able to stand each other. How long can they keep the secrets they hide?

The characters and the setting absolutely make this book. The isolation of the Scottish Highlands, teamed with Foley’s very intriguing cast of characters kept me turning the pages at a rate of knots. I can’t say I particularly liked any of them but that never really matters to me. In fact, the more secretive and the more despicable a character is the more I enjoy the book! I wanted to know more, so much so that I read this book in a matter of days rather than the two weeks it’s been taking to finish a novel of late.

The story is told from several viewpoints; those of Miranda the beautiful ‘it’ girl who craves the attention of everyone around her.  Emma, Mark’s girlfriend who is chief organiser of the holiday and a late addition to the group.  Katie, Miranda’s not-quite-so-glamorous BFF.  Heather, the host at the house who has secrets of her own and Doug, the aloof gamekeeper.  Despite using several different voices to tell the story I didn’t find it confusing as all of the narrators stand apart from one another.  They are all very different distinct characters.

What I loved was that the reader discovers there has been a murder fairly early on. Foley, however, manages to keep who the victim is a secret until very near the end of the story. You can’t help speculating though. I make a couple of guesses as I progressed through the book. I won’t mention that there were times when I really hoped it was a certain dastardly character though 😉.  I can’t really put into words how compelling The Hunting Party is so I suggest you get a copy yourself and experience this brilliant book first-hand.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  Without a moment’s hesitation.  It’s creepy and claustrophobic with a brilliant ending.  It’s a perfect example of the books I love to read.  A great page-turner of a book with intriguing characters, a fabulous remote setting and shedloads of suspicion and suspense.  More please! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review The Hunting Party.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 24th January 2019 and is available in hardback, ebook and audio formats with the paperback to follow later this year (please note, some of 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.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

lucy foly.jpgLucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Author Links:FacebookTwitter | Instagram |

The Killer You Know with S.R. Masters: Day Five (@SRMastersAuthor) @TheCrimeVault

35483257.jpg“I’ll murder three strangers. And you’ll know it was me. That way we’ll all be connected. Always.

When Will jokes about becoming a serial killer, his friends just laugh it off. But Adeline can’t help but feel there’s something more sinister lurking behind his words.

Fifteen years later, Adeline returns to Blythe for a reunion of the old gang – except Will doesn’t show up. Reminiscing about old times, they look up the details of his supposed murder spree. But the mood soon changes when they discover two recent deaths that match.

As the group attempt to track Will down, they realise that he is playing a sinister game that harks back to one they used to play as kids. Only this time there are lives at stake…

I am absolutely delighted to be the fifth and final stop on the hunt for The Killer You Know this week.  If you’ve been following proceedings since Monday you will know that today is the day to make your deductions and choose your killer friend.  Make sure you tweet the name of your suspect and your reasons for choosing them using the hashtag #TheKillerYouKnow to be in with a chance of winning a copy of the book!

Four possible killers have been paraded before you and today I offer the fifth.  Before I introduce Will, here’s a recap of this week’s posts:

Monday – Dave at espresso coco
Tuesday – Liz at Liz Loves Books
Wednesday – Gordon at Grab This Book
Thursday – Steph at Steph’s Book Blog

Personally, I haven’t the foggiest who the killer friend is which is why I’m leaving the sleuthing to you!

Let’s add our fifth and final friend to the mix and find out more about Will….

Sure, the last time the gang all saw Will he told them all he’d be a serial killer when he was older. But that was just classic Will. He was always saying funny stuff like that. Funny stuff that was often more just, well, creepy than funny—but always weird. But then Will comes from a funny family, one that’s seen its own share of tragedies down the years. So yeah, maybe he was misunderstood. And maybe always being seen as the weirdo actually made him that way? And perhaps his resentment about that is why he hasn’t shown up to the reunion. Why he’s vanished from social media entirely and left no trace of himself. And yet, why does it still feel like Will has come? Even though he’s not there bodily, why does it feel so much like… he’s watching them all.

Oooh, I actually like the sound of creepy Will.  Sounds like my kinda guy!  What do you think, is Will the killer?

Get tweeting folks.  Remember to include your suspect’s name, your reasons for choosing them and the hashtag #TheKillerYouKnow.  Good luck. (I’m still totally clueless, by the way…)

The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters was published in the UK by Sphere on 30th August 2018 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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#BookReview: The Perfect Friend by Barbara Copperthwaite (@BCopperthwait) @bookouture #ThePerfectFriend

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“She’ll do anything for you…

My name is Alex, and my world has been shattered.

My husband has left me.

My children won’t speak to me.

My friend Carrie is the only person I have.

She’s the only one I can trust to keep all my secrets.

She’d never do anything to let me down.

Would she?

I am a huge fan of Barbara Copperthwaite’s books. I have read nearly all of them (except one, Invisible) and every single book I have read has been a five-star read. Here are the reviews to prove it; Flowers for the Dead, The Darkest Lies and Her Last Secret. The other notable thing this author tends to do, more often than not, is to make this tough, ‘ard as nails crime reader bawl like a baby (she also made me fall in love with a serial killer but we won’t mention that 😉)! In essence, when Barbara Copperthwaite writes a book, I jump through hoops to read it.

So did The Perfect Friend live up to my very high expectations? Of course it did. It’s a Barbara Copperthwaite novel, duh! We meet Alex who immediately confesses to the reader that she is a liar. I don’t know about you but as an avid reader of crime and psychological thrillers, I’m always on the lookout for lies and half-truths from the characters I share my time with. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m overly suspicious and trust no-one who lives their life between the covers of a book. So knowing full well that Alex is a self-confessed liar I was immediately on my guard. But, with this at the forefront of my mind, I couldn’t help but like her. She is hiding some absolutely massive porkies and I did gasp when I discovered what they were, crikey! Amongst the inner turmoil, the secrets and the deceit, Alex is trying to make amends for something terrible she did; another secret she needs to keep at all costs! This particular secret involves her new best friend, Carrie who is terminally ill and who she met at the local support group. When anonymous threatening parcels start to arrive at Carrie’s house, Alex steps in and does everything she can to protect her best friend. But instead of helping, Alex starts to become suspicious. Something just don’t add up….

Copperthwaite has created a wonderful sense of unease in The Perfect Friend. It’s difficult to put your finger on why you feel so uncomfortable whilst reading but it’s there, peering over your shoulder making you feel twitchy. This is another brilliant, twisty read and I just knew something big was going to happen but couldn’t for the life of me work out where the author was going to take the story. I have to confess that I found some parts of the book a little difficult to believe but I was enjoying it so much that I just shrugged and threw myself straight back into the story. After all, it IS fiction. And yes, you may be wondering if the author managed to make me cry this time. She did, but only a little. I managed to keep the big ugly sobbing inside cos I’m ‘ard. 😬

Would I recommend this book? I would, but I would recommend all of Copperthwaite’s books because you can easily get lost in her stories. The Perfect Friend is a highly entertaining read which kept me turning the pages, desperate to find out what was going to happen to these two women. Full of twists, you never really know what to believe and Copperthwaite has surpassed herself in keeping her readers firmly on their toes. Highly recommended.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Perfect Friend by Barbara Copperthwaite was published in the UK by Bookouture on 5th July and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

about the author3

barbara copperthwaite

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

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.

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

#BookReview: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor (@cjtudor) @MichaelJBooks #TheChalkMan @1stMondayCrime

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“You can feel it in the woods, in the school and in the playground; you can feel it in the houses and at the fairground. You can feel it in most places in the small town of Anderbury . . . the fear that something or someone is watching you.

It began back in 1986, at the fair, on the day of the accident. That was when twelve-year-old Eddie met Mr Halloran – the Chalk Man.

He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body.

Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him, until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk, and a drawing of a figure.

Is history going to repeat itself?

Was it ever really over?

Will this game only end in the same way?”

What a treat! What a prologue! What a flipping brilliant story! If you haven’t quite guessed yet then yes, I am a huge fan of The Chalk Man and something quite incredible will have to make itself known to me for it NOT to make it onto my ‘books of 2018’ list. The bar has been well and truly raised and this little beauty is currently sitting pretty at the top of the book pile. Quite extraordinary and totally mesmerising!

Regular visitors to the blog will know that I love crime fiction with a passion (unhealthy? *shrugs* 😉😜). But I get particularly excited when I find a crime novel with a hint of a horror crossover included, which this is. My book of 2017 was Final Girls because it had a horror movie feel to it, crime with a large dash of spinetingling, nerve-jangling horror.  The Chalk Man has some fantastic horror-esque elements to it but it is to all intents and purposes a crime thriller novel.  I particularly enjoyed the scenes at the fairground which I found shocking and unsettling.  And oh boy, that prologue!  However, I know that many readers switch off when the word ‘horror’ is mentioned.  I’m telling you now, don’t.  Just don’t do it!  Try it, what is there to lose?  Start with The Chalk Man and I bet you fall a little bit in love with the creepiness, with the unease and bucketfuls of suspense Tudor has so expertly crafted.  Go on, I dare you…

The story runs a dual timeline; partly set in 1986 and partly set thirty years later in 2016.  In both the past and the present the reader is introduced to Eddie Adams (or Ed as he becomes known, later in life).  Eddie is a normal kid, messing around with his mates and dreading the end of the school holidays.  His little gang of friends made me quite nostalgic for my bygone childhood days in the late 80s (more early 90s really!).  Except me and my friends didn’t have ‘cool’ nicknames like Hoppo, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Eddie Munster and, erm…Nicky!

I loved the adventure these kids went on.  I mentioned earlier how much I loved the scenes at the fair.  The fair plays a pivotal role in the story as this is where Eddie meets Mr Halloran for the first time.  Mr Halloran is nicknamed ‘The Chalk Man’ by the kids he teaches at the school.  He’s also the reason that Eddie and his little gang start leaving chalk man drawings as secret code for each other.  So when the harmless, benign drawings lead Eddie and his friends to a dead body, there is only one person in the frame for murder.

From the day of the accident, strange things start happening in the small town of Anderbury.  Tudor has masterfully built the tension so you never know what to expect but you’re on the edge of your seat from start to finish.  And this is Tudor’s debut novel!  I can’t wait to see what else the author has in store for us.  Her debut is sublime!

I fell head over heels in love with middle-aged, stuck in his ways, teacher Ed.  Something about this character drew me to him.  I was completely hooked by his story and that of his friends, past and present.  I want to say so much more about this incredible book but I’m on the brink of giving too much away so all I will say is that you need to get yourself a copy of The Chalk Man as it is magnificent and just the sort of book I want to read again and again and again.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely.  It’s so deliciously gripping, chock full of suspense, engrossingly creepy and had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.  Although I managed to put this book down and walk away from it I really didn’t want to.  When I was doing ‘life stuff’ I was thinking about the story, thinking about Eddie and his friends.  Trying to see where the story would lead me.  I failed, by the way.  There was no way I saw THAT coming. WOW!  Absolutely brilliant, highly recommended, lots of fun and wonderfully addictive.

Five out of five stars.

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

C.J. Tudor will be appearing at the first First Monday Crime event of the year on Monday 5th February 2018.  C.J. will be appearing alongside Tammy Cohen, Chris Carter, Craig Robertson and moderator Joe Haddow of BBC Radio 2’s Book Club.  The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 7pm on Monday 5th February in the Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre, Tait Building, City University London.  Click HERE for more information, directions to the venue and to book your place!

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Penguin Random House – Michael Joseph Books on 11th January 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please be aware, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | WaterstonesGoodreads |

about the author3

cj tudor.pngC. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, waitress, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and now author. The Chalk Man is her first novel.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |