#BlogTour | #BookReview: Safe House by Jo Jakeman @HarvillSecker #SafeHouse #damppebbles

SH_7.jpg“NOT EVERYONE DESERVES A SECOND CHANCE . . .

The morning after a terrible storm, a woman turns up in a remote Cornish village. She calls herself Charlie, but it’s a name she’s only had for a few days. She keeps herself to herself, reluctant to integrate with the locals. Because Charlie has a secret.

Charlie was in prison for providing a false alibi for a murderer. But Lee Fisher wasn’t a murderer to her; he was the man she loved. Convinced of his innocence, Charlie said she was with him the night a young woman was killed. This sacrifice cost her everything.

And now she has a chance to start again. But someone is watching her, waiting for her, wondering if she’s really paid the price for what she did.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the Safe House blog tour. Safe House is the second book from Jo Jakeman and it’s published in hardcover and ebook formats today! The happiest of publication days to Jo and the team at Harvill Secker. I received a free eARC of Safe House but that has in no way influenced my review.

Charlie Miller is a woman with a lot to hide. What’s the best thing to do when you’ve made a number of terrible mistakes and want to forget your past? When you walk down the street of the town which you’ve lived your entire life in and people spit at you? You obviously up sticks and move to a different part of the country! Charlie Miller moves her meagre belongings to Penderrion in Cornwall and starts afresh. But Charlie Miller is a brand new creation. A new identity to help ex-convict Steffi Finn fit in. Steffi has just been released from HMP Hillstone for providing a false alibi for her partner, Lee Fisher. But that’s in the past. No one knows who Charlie really is. Or do they….?

I enjoyed this slow-burn psychological suspense novel. I found Charlie, despite her faults, easy to like and the setting, the beautiful and dramatic Cornish coastline, played as much a part in the story as the characters themselves. With Jakeman’s vivid descriptions I could picture myself stood on the cliffs overlooking the turbulent waves.

There’s a wonderful sense of impending danger and unease throughout the novel which comes from three angles. The lawyer husband of Jenn who seems to recognise Charlie on first sight, the unknown narrator who appears a handful of times throughout the novel and from Ben Jarvis who seems hellbent on trying to track Charlie down. For what purpose the reader is left wondering.

Would I recommend this book? If you like a lighter, edging on women’s fiction thriller, then yes – this is a book for you. Charlie’s neighbours were great characters and I enjoyed the community spirit they embodied – particularly Aubrey who was my favourite character in the book (and had very little community spirit about him but he was fond of Charlie and I think we all know or have known an Aubrey). An entertaining read to while away an Autumnal afternoon.

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

Safe House by Jo Jakeman was published by Harvill Secker on 31st October 2019 and is available in hardcover and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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JO JAKEMAN was the winner of the Friday Night Live 2016 competition at the York Festival of Writing. Born in Cyprus, she worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Derbyshire with her husband and twin boys. Safe House is her second novel and Sticks and Stones was her debut thriller.

#BookReview | #Giveaway: If I Die Before I Wake by @EmilyKoch | @HarvillSecker @vintagebooks

if I die before i wake.jpg“HOW DO YOU SOLVE YOUR OWN MURDER?

Everyone believes Alex is in a coma, unlikely to ever wake up. As his family debate withdrawing life support, and his friends talk about how his girlfriend Bea needs to move on, he can only listen.

But Alex soon begins to suspect that the accident that put him here wasn’t really an accident. Even worse, the perpetrator is still out there and Alex is not the only one in danger. 

As he goes over a series of clues from his past, Alex must use his remaining senses to solve the mystery of who tried to kill him, and try to protect those he loves, before they decide to let him go.

A stunning edge-of-your-seat debut novel with an unforgettable narrator.”

I finished reading If I Die Before I Wake a few days ago and I’m still bereft, still heartbroken.  This haunting debut thriller will stay with me for some time, but do you know what? I nearly gave up on it! I’m not really one for discarding books part way through.  Actually, I can probably count the number of books I have ‘DNF’d’ on one hand.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I am a) a crime fiction fan, b) I like character driven fiction and c) I like excitement and action, thrills and spills.  When I started reading If I Die Before I Wake I suddenly started to question how the author was going to keep the story going for 320 pages.  Alex, our main character, is in a coma and has been for a significant amount of time (18 months-ish).  He has spells of being alert, able to see a little, able to smell, able to hear, able to taste the rubber of a gloved hand sponging out his mouth and able to feel.  But he can’t move, can’t communicate.  I didn’t instantly warm to Alex, or his girlfriend, Bea.  As you would expect, the first few chapters of this book paint Alex’s rather dire situation for the reader.  Alex is in a coma.  His girlfriend visits, his family visits, his best mate visits.  I was questioning whether it was worth continuing with Alex’s tale.  He’d been in a coma for so long I couldn’t see him waking up anytime soon.  What was going to happen?  WELL!  Let me tell you something.  I persevered and oh my gosh, I am so glad I did.

You see, I fell a little bit in love with Alex.  Koch has created some astonishingly good characters in If I Die Before I Wake.  I’m not an emotional reader normally. I want blood, guts and gore, shedloads of action and a killer hook (not much to ask for, is it?).  Since I started damppebbles I have cried twice whilst reading.  It was twice, make that three times now.  And I’m not ashamed to admit it was ugly crying.  Snotty, sobby, traumatised, hiccuppy, heartbroken crying.  Wow!  Just WOW!!  And to think I nearly put this book down.  By the time I turned the last page there was so much I loved about this novel.  It wasn’t just Alex I had fallen in love with.  His poor dad made my heart melt, and despite being a bit of a nightmare, I also warmed to his sister, Philippa.

I’m excited to see what author Emily Koch gives us readers next.  If this is the quality of her writing then us bookish types are in for a real treat!

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely! Yes, it’s a thrilling read which is incredibly clever as the main character never leaves his hospital bed (!) but it’s also a highly emotional tale which broke my heart.  The author has excelled at making her reader feel the frustration Alex suffers on a daily basis.  Absolutely flipping brilliant and a contender for my ‘books of 2018’ list!

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of If I Die Before I Wake.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

I was very lucky to receive two copies of If I Die Before I Wake from the publisher.  Rather than have the spare sat on my bookshelf unread and unloved let’s have a giveaway!  To be in with a chance to win one hardback copy of If I Die Before I Wake all you have to do is retweet the pinned tweet on my twitter profile and tag a friend you think would like to read this book.  Retweet and tag, it’s that easy.  UK/IRE only I’m afraid as it’s a hardback copy and will cost too much to send overseas.  Giveaway closes on Saturday 20th January 2018 at midday (GMT).  The winner will need to provide me with their address and there is no cash or eBook alternative.  Good luck!

If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch was published in the UK by Harvill Secker on 11th January 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (the following Amazon links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comWaterstones | Goodreads |

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Emily Koch - pic by Barbara Evripidou

I am an author and journalist living in Bristol, UK, and am represented by Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge and White. My debut novel If I Die Before I Wake is out now, published by Harvill Secker, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Working with writer Alison Powell I am also a founding member of WriteClub – which runs regular creative writing events in Bristol. Check us out – whether you’re a published author or the last thing you wrote was a shopping list.

Email me at mail@emilykoch.co.uk with any queries.

You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Author image and bio © https://emilykoch.co.uk/

#GuestReview: Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan (@eva_dolan) @HarvillSecker @Tracie_Delaney

watch her disappear.jpg“YOU CAN RUN FROM YOUR PAST. BUT YOU CAN’T RUN FROM MURDER.

The body is found by the river, near a spot popular with runners.

With a serial rapist at work in the area, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are initially confused when the Hate Crimes Unit is summoned to the scene. Until they discover that the victim, Corinne Sawyer, was born Colin Sawyer.

Police records reveal there have been violent attacks on trans women in the local area. Was Corinne a victim of mistaken identity? Or has the person who has been targeting trans women stepped up their campaign of violence? With tensions running high, and the force coming under national scrutiny, this is a complex case and any mistake made could be fatal…”

Welcome, lovely people, to another fabulous damppebbles guest review post.  Today I am thrilled to welcome the very lovely Tracie Delaney back to the blog with her review of Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan.  Tracie blogs at the fabulous Passionate About Books and previously featured on damppebbles with her brilliant review of Nowhere Girl by Ruth Dugdall.

Here’s a little more information about Tracie:

tracie.jpegI’ve been obsessed with books for as long as I can remember. As a child, I could be found with one of two things in my hand; a book or a bridle (I was an avid horse rider in my younger years).

Reading is a wonderful form of escape. I love the way books transport you to different worlds and allow you to be a part of so many character’s lives.

I blog and write under the pseudonym Tracie Delaney. My first novel, Winning Ace, is due out in May 2017.

And here are Tracie’s thoughts on Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan:

My heartfelt thanks goes to Emma Welton at damppebbles.com for giving me the chance to read and review Watch Her Disappear.

Police are called to a horrifying scene early one morning; the body of a woman has been discovered by a river, a popular spot with runners. The woman has suffered severe facial injuries and has been strangled with the cord from her music earphones, dragged from the path while she took her morning exercise.

When Detective Inspector Zigic, Head of the Peterborough Police Hate Crimes unit is called in, he’s confused. Surely this is more a case for CID?

But then it is revealed that the woman, Corinne Sawyer, used to be Colin Sawyer. Halfway through her transition, she presented in real life as a woman, but Zigic has to consider whether she was killed due to mistaken identity, or was there a murderer on the loose targeting transexual females?

As Zigic and his partner, Ferreira, dig deeper into the closed and secretive world Corinne belonged to, they begin to uncover hidden and unreported crimes from a community living in fear.

And alongside this murder, CID are embroiled in investigating a series of brutal rapes. Is the serial rapist escalating? Are the cases connected? And if they are, will Zigic struggle to hold off CID from wanting to reassign Corinne’s case into their own department?

I absolutely adored this novel. I’ve never read anything by Eva Dolan before, but believe me, that will be rectified.

This book is a slow burn mystery/thriller. It isn’t one of those books where you are left breathless as wave after wave of shocks come at you, thick and fast. In this book, the author builds the tension slowly, carefully—and realistically.

The story is told over one week, from the time of Corinne’s death to the eventual capture of her killer, but through that relatively short timeframe, the author digs deep, showing the level of scrutiny and work I would imagine goes into a real murder investigation.

I loved DI Zigic. You got to see two different sides to the same character – Exhausted husband due to newly-born daughter Emily keeping him awake at night to tenacious and integrity-fuelled DI, determined to find the killer while at the same time, desperately trying to stop the case being returned to CID.

Ferreira, his partner, took me a little more time to connect with, although as the story went on, it left me thinking that she’s exactly the sort of copper I’d want if I ever found myself in a similar situation to Corinne’s family.

This author is clearly very talented; from the way she strings a sentence together that leaves you in awe, to the careful pacing of plot and the full and rounded characters she lays on the page.

As the front cover states in a quote from Ian Rankin – She’s top drawer.

***

Thank you for this fabulous review Tracie.  I really want to read this book, and hopefully soon (luckily I still have a copy on the #terrifyingTBR).

Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan was published in the UK by Vintage Books on 26th January 2017 and is available in hardcover and eBook formats (with the paperback to follow later this year) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Eva Dolan is an Essex-based copywriter and intermittently successful poker player. Shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger for unpublished authors when she was just a teenager, Long Way Home is her debut novel and the start of a major new crime series.

Author Links:Twitter |

#BlogTour | #CharacterSpotlight: The Follower by Koethi Zan (@Koethi_Zan) @vintagebooks

THE FOLLOWER.jpg“SHE’D DO ANYTHING FOR HER HUSBAND.

Julie has the perfect life

A kind boyfriend, loving parents and good grades. She has everything ahead of her.

Cora’s life is a nightmare

A psychopath for a husband, a violent father and a terrible secret. There’s no way out.

But one night, their worlds collide

Locked in an isolated house together, they must work out what has happened – and who they can trust to set them free.

From the bestselling author of The Never List, this is a breath-taking new thriller about the wife of a kidnapper and her relationship with his last victim.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the The Follower blog tour.  The Follower is author Koethi Zan’s second novel after her brilliant debut, The Never List (which I absolutely loved by the way!).  I, for one, can’t wait to read this book so look out for a review coming to damppebbles soon!

Today I am thrilled to be hosting a character spotlight.  So without further ado, let’s find out more about Cora:

Cora

Cora Jenkins will do anything for her husband.

The seeds of her dysfunction were planted in her difficult childhood on the run with her alcoholic father. He changed their names as often as their towns and raised her in an atmosphere of violence and neglect. Later, falling in with the wrong high school crowd has severe consequences for her, making her particularly vulnerable to the persuasive powers of James Jenkins, an itinerant preacher looking for a cult following. Her feelings muddled by guilt and desire, she manages to push rational thoughts out of her mind enough to embrace the fantastical scenario James concocted. She needs what he offers and refuses to recognise that he is actually a failure, a shyster, and mentally ill. Instead, she sees only her distorted vision of spirituality, home, and power. Believing she’s failed on her own, she clings to James as a way to build the more secure life she always wanted.

Cora will do anything to preserve this fake world, embracing his fantasy as her own. As James takes each step toward evil, she follows him devotedly, ready to implement his sick desires without question. Anything to keep the farm, to beat back her own guilt, to forget the mistakes of her past.

But then James abducts Julie Brookman, a smart, pampered rich girl who refuses to go down without a fight. Worse still, he leaves Cora alone with her. Cora has never faced anything like this and suddenly has to confront the despair that was always right beneath the surface of her dream.

Julie—it turns out—is a worthy adversary, knowing enough to mess with Cora’s twisted mind. She intuitively senses Cora’s enormous psychological strain, and decides to push her to the limits in the hope of cracking her delicate psyche. But Cora is playing her own game, and the inner strengths of her youth come raging back within her. Their battle forces her to confront her past and the sacrifices she’s made, and desperately search for a way to hold on to everything she wants, no matter what the cost.

***

Oh wow, I was excited to read this book but having read Cora’s spotlight, I want to read it even more! It’s official, The Follower has moved up several places  on the TBR.

The Follower by Koethi Zan was published in the UK by Vintage B0oks | Harvill Secker on 23rd February 2017 and is available in eBook format (with the paperback to follow later this year) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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(c) Pieter M. van Hattem

When Koethi Zan was born in the sleepy farming town of Opp, Alabama, the “City of Opportunity,” her mother was Valedictorian of the local public high school and her father the star of its football team. Her parents named her after the homecoming queen of Lurleen B. Wallace Junior College, perhaps hopeful that some of that glory would rub off on her.

But Koethi would never be a homecoming queen. In fact, she spent most of her youth in her room, reading, listening to Morrissey, and avoiding everything connected to high school football—not an easy task in those parts.

After graduation, Koethi put herself through Birmingham-Southern College with scholarships and a small “cow fund” courtesy of Molly, the Charolais heifer she’d received as her third birthday present. She used the money wisely, travelling to New Orleans on the weekends to hit the club scene, almost always in silver-sequined costume, surrounded by transvestites, Goth kids and her gay male entourage. Perhaps, in some roundabout way, she had fulfilled her homecoming queen destiny after all.

Then, in what may have been a misguided fit of pique, Koethi threw away her all-black daywear and her thrift-store evening gowns, and went to Yale Law School, with some vague idea of becoming a film producer. Afterwards, however, she unexpectedly found herself twenty-eight stories up in the Manhattan offices of Davis Polk & Wardwell, a prestigious white shoe law firm that represented mostly investment banks. She regularly pulled all-nighters working on secured financings and revolving credit facilities. She tended to wear demure black pantsuits, with her hair up.

It didn’t take her long to realize corporate life wasn’t for her, and Koethi spent the next fifteen years practicing entertainment law both in private practice (at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison and, later, Schreck Rose & Dapello) and in-house business and legal affairs positions (for the film producer, Ed Pressman, and, most recently, at MTV), with a slight detour along the way to study cinema at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

As an entertainment lawyer, Koethi attended glamorous premieres and openings, international film festivals and celebrity-filled parties. She dealt with gritty production issues as varied as suicide threats, drug overdoses and sex-tape allegations. She warred with Hollywood agents and befriended reality stars.

Then, while Senior Vice President & Deputy General Counsel at MTV, she decided to fulfill a lifelong dream on the side, and in the early mornings she wrote a crime novel, The Never List.

Now, coming full circle in a way, Koethi, her husband, Stephen Metcalf, and their two daughters, live in an old farmhouse in a rural community in upstate New York. Her husband occasionally watches a football game on television. But her daughters have never even heard of homecoming queens.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter |