#BookReview: Don’t You Dare by A.J. Waines (@AJWaines) @Bloodhoundbook #DontYouDare

don't you dare.jpg

“What if your daughter becomes your enemy?

When barmaid, Rachel, discovers her soon-to-be-married daughter, Beth, pinned down by a stranger in the pub cellar, Rachel lashes out in panic and the intruder ends up dead. In desperation, Rachel convinces Beth they should cover up the crime and go ahead with the planned wedding in one month’s time.

Rachel, however, has her own reasons for not involving the police.

Hiding their dreadful secret is harder than they both imagined and as the big day approaches and the lies multiply, Beth becomes a liability. Rachel looks on in dismay at the hen party when, after too many drinks, Beth declares she’s about to make a special announcement. But before Beth can say a word she disappears…

When two people share a chilling secret can both hold their nerve?”

I am a HUGE fan of A.J. Waines’ independently published series about clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby. Huge, I tell you! If you missed them the first time then here are my reviews of Inside the Whispers (book #1) and the more recent Lost in the Lake (book #2). So I was thrilled for A.J. (or Alison) when I heard she had secured a two-book deal with the independent crime fiction publisher, Bloodhound Books. The first book in that deal, Don’t You Dare, was published in the UK yesterday so a very happy (belated) book birthday to Alison and the team at Bloodhound Books!

Don’t You Dare has an eye-opening and really rather shocking first chapter which draws the reader into the story immediately. From then on in, I was hooked. We meet Rachel, mother to Beth who had her daughter at the tender age of 15. Beth is now in her early twenties and aspires to be an actor. But when Rachel walks into the pub where she works and finds her daughter being brutally attacked in the cellar, her instincts take over and she does everything (and anything) to protect her child. Including accidentally killing a man. Accidents happen though. After all, her daughter was being viciously attacked. Rachel lashed out to save Beth, she pushed the attacker, he fell and hit his head. Anyone would have done the same thing to save their child, right? Wrong, because Rachel convinces Beth that they need to lie about the accident and hide the body. And there the thread starts to unravel, destroying the most precious of relationships; the destruction of a mother and daughter…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’m ashamed to admit that I became quite addicted to watching things spiral out of control for Rachel and Beth. At times, I had the same feeling as watching a tense drama on the television (peeking out from behind my hands). I wanted to find out what was going to happen but at the same time, it was tough to watch the devastation one terribly bad decision could wreak on such a strong bond.

I struggled to like Beth. As a twenty-something young woman, she felt quite childish and selfish. It was all about her and her career but I guess many of us acted that way at that age. (To be honest, my early twenties seem so long ago it’s hard to remember!) Did I like Rachel? I’m not sure. I did at the start of the book but I think my feelings changed for her as the story progressed. Rachel makes some pretty crazy decisions throughout the story and I can *kind of* understand her reasoning for doing some of the things she does (not hiding a body though, I really can’t understand that! 😱).

There’s very little downtime for the reader in Don’t You Dare. The plot moves at an addictive pace and keeps the reader hooked, waiting for the next bombshell to hit or the suspense to mount even more. The ending was totally unexpected and did leave me a little baffled. I didn’t see it coming (and being me, I was looking for clues). I’m sitting here, writing this review asking myself, ‘Really?!’. But I do appear to be the only early reader who has commented on this so I’m putting it down to being ‘just me’!

Would I recommend this book? I would. Told in the voices of both Rachel and Beth, Don’t You Dare is a very readable, hard to put down psychological thriller. Full of devastating secrets, the reader watches from afar as lives shatter and relationships crumble. I REALLY enjoyed it and can’t wait to read the next book (be it a standalone psychological thriller or the next Dr Sam book) from the pen of A.J. Waines.

Four and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Don’t You Dare. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Don’t You Dare by A.J. Waines was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 8th May 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

WainesAJ6 (1)

AJ Waines has sold over 400,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and USA (audiobooks).

Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband.

Authors Links: | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter |

#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 |

Amended Banner 2.png

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 |

#BookReview: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney (@alicewriterland) @HQStories

sometimes I lie.jpgMy name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me: 
1. I’m in a coma. 
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore. 
3. Sometimes I lie. 

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?”

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney was such a huge book with an impossible to ignore buzz about it earlier this year.  I bit NetGalley’s hand off when I realised it was up for request.  Little did I know at the time that I would have to wait MONTHS before finding the time to read it.  My FOMO* really kicked in when, stood with a very good friend at Harrogate during the Dead Good Reader Awards I happened to mention my suspicion that the lady stood to my left was the author, Alice Feeney.  Well, my friend came over all giddy and went up to Alice immediately to introduce herself and commend her on Sometimes I Lie.  Yup, FOMO sucks.  I shall also mention that just behind Alice stood C. L. Taylor and to our right was the incredible Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books with one of my all-time favourite authors, Steph Broadribb!  This is the only time in my life I will ever get to namedrop so please let me have my moment, will you?

But I digress.  What I’m trying to get across (and probably failing) is that I was so very keen to read this book but time was against me.  That was until I was caught waiting for what seemed like hours at the dentist without a book.  And there, sat on my Kindle, was Sometimes I Lie.  The responsible book blogger would have opted for their next January blog tour read, but I couldn’t remember what was next so I went with what I wanted to read instead.  Plus I was at the dentist and it felt like I was being kind to myself ahead of the agonising filling which was coming my way!

I was immediately suspicious of the main protagonist, Amber Reynolds.  Before the reader turns to the first page they are made aware by the cover, by the blurb, that Amber sometimes lies.  Now, I am a naturally suspicious person – not helped by mostly reading books about people doing bad, underhand things in order to save their own skin or to enhance their own enjoyment of life.  So much so that when my husband was asked as a favour to take a couple of items of clothing to a meeting he was attending overseas for a colleague, I asked him if he’d checked the lining of the suit for any hidden drugs.  Am I weird?  Maybe.  So I was on high alert, trying to work out what, in Amber’s case, was true and what was not.  I totally failed.  All I did was over analyse everything instead of just relaxing and enjoying the book.  My advice to you if you intend on picking up a copy of Sometimes I Lie is don’t scrutinise every little thing – just enjoy it because it’s a corking story.

Amber Reynolds is in a coma.  She cannot move, cannot speak, cannot blink but she hears nearly everything that happens in her hospital room.  I really enjoyed the way the author has provided the reader with three different viewpoints; Amber’s as she lies uncommunicative in her hospital bed, a look at the events leading up to the accident and diary entries from a somewhat sinister, unknown child 20 years or so ago.  Amber cannot remember what happened to put her in the coma.  She overhears conversations which confirm she was in a car accident but she was the only victim.  So until Amber wakes up and remembers, the incident will remain a mystery.

Chock full of twists that seem to come out of nowhere and leave you wondering ‘how did that happen?’, or ‘gosh, I really didn’t see that coming!’, this is a complex psychological thriller which leaves the reader feeling both a little mystified but also fully satisfied.  I loved the character of Amber, even when she was doing odd, unexplainable things.  I was still rooting for her.  I did manage to work out one aspect of the book about half way through but until my suspicions were confirmed, I did frequently doubt myself.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  Fans of the unreliable narrator will adore this twisty, turny read.  I spent the entire time I was reading Sometimes I Lie wondering exactly how much I actually knew about Amber and her story.  The answer in hindsight, ‘not a lot!’.  Complex, intricate, highly original and difficult to put down.  I can’t wait to read more from Alice Feeney.

Four stars out of five.

*FOMO = Fear of Missing Out

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

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney was published in the UK by HQ on 23rd March 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please be aware that the following Amazon links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comWaterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

alice feeney.jpgAlice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent 15 years at the BBC, where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Producer and One O’clock News Producer.

Alice is has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog.

Sometimes I Lie is her debut thriller and is being published around the world in 2017.

Author Bio © https://www.alicefeeney.com/

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter |

Guest Post: Alison Baillie (author of Sewing The Shadows Together) #damppebbesTakeOver

Today it is my great pleasure to welcome the very talented Alison Baillie, author of Sewing The Shadows Together, to damppebbles.  Alison has written a wonderful post explaining the inspiration behind the people and places in her debut novel.  If you haven’t come across Sewing The Shadows Together before, here is the blurb:

cover STST“Can you ever get over the death of your sister? Or of your best friend?

More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah.

“Shona had been gone for so long but the memories still came unexpectedly, sometimes like a video from the past, sometimes distorted dreams, but she was always there.”

When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears. Dark secrets from the past are uncovered, and there is another death, before the identity of the real killer is finally revealed…

Set in Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and South Africa, Sewing the Shadows Together is a thoroughly modern murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing to the end. Filled with characters who could easily be friends, family or people we work with, it asks the question:

Do we ever really know the people closest to us?”

Alison has kindly offered me a review copy of Sewing The Shadows Together so look out for a review on damppebbles soon (ish!).

Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie

Like many debut novelists people are always asking me if the story is based on my life, or if the characters are based on real people. It is totally fictional, but places and people have inspired the book and incidents from my life have been woven into it.

The story is told through the eyes of Tom and Sarah, the brother and best friend of a teenage girl who was murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, in the seventies. They meet up again after many years, at a school reunion, and feel an instant connection because of their shared experience.

They have both been scarred by what happened. Tom and his family emigrated to South Africa after the tragedy, where Tom has drifted, never having a proper job or a real relationship.  Sarah keeps up the pretence of a lovely family life in her beautiful Edinburgh New Town flat, typified by Sunday lunches with her TV chat show host husband, her grown-up twins and her widowed mother. However, cracks soon appear beneath the facade of her perfect life.

When the local misfit who had been convicted of the crime is proved to be innocent, Tom and Sarah are caught up n the search for the real killer and dark family secrets are revealed as suspicions fall on family and friends before the truth finally comes to light.

The idea for Sewing the Shadows Together first came to me when I was teaching at Portobello High School nearly forty years ago. There were several high-profile murders in Scotland at that time and I couldn’t stop thinking about the effect this must have on the family and friends of the victims. The seeds of the novel were planted then, but it took many years before I actually wrote it and many things that happened in-between influenced the plot.

portobello beach

Portobello beach

The main settings of the book are based on places I know well. Portobello is a
very important place to me, my mother came from there and we always spent family holidays there when I was young. In the book I try to capture the special atmosphere of this Victorian resort with its promenade beside the long beach with the distant coast of Fife shimmering in the haze beyond the Firth of Forth.

I lived in Edinburgh for many years and I enjoyed writing about the Georgian buildings, the cobbled streets, the silhouette of the castle against the northern sky,  and also the bars that I love there.

Part of the book is also set in the Outer Hebrides, where Tom goes to scatter his mother’s ashes (the reason he came back to Scotland) and this section was based on a poignant holiday I spent there with a dear friend of mine, when we scattered her husband’s ashes on a deserted beach at sunset. I’ve tried to capture the wild isolated atmosphere of these islands, which made a great impression on me.

When I started writing the book, Tom and his family went to Australia, a country I’ve only visited once. But I’ve spent several holidays in Plettenberg Bay, a beautiful seaside resort on the cape coast of South Africa and realised this would be a much better place for them to go. I wrote quite a lot of the book there, inspired by walks along the wonderful beach, watching the dolphins leap in the crashing waves.

People ask if Sarah is me, and I suppose she does reflect part of my personality (although I’ve never had to suffer as she did) but there are also parts of me in Tom, and Rory, Sarah’s husband, is partly based on my ex-husband.  As the book is about ordinary people in extraordinary situations I always tried to imagine how I would react if I were in their position, although fortunately I haven’t had to suffer as they do.

Other incidents also found their place in the story. I went to a school reunion, and thought then that this would be a good starting point for the book, where back-stories could be introduced in a natural way. At this school reunion I also met my favourite old English teacher, who shares some characteristics with HJ Kidd, the teacher in the story, but only the nice aspects!

I vividly remember sitting in the classroom with this teacher as a thirteen-year-old when we read the poem Bat, by DH Lawrence. This poem is set in Florence at the Ponte Vecchio, where the poem was watching the swallows flying. Suddenly he realises that the flying creatures are not swallows but bats. This poem made a big impression on me, and I include this scene in the book as it reflects the theme of appearance and reality. The title Sewing the Shadows Together also comes from this poem.

All works of fiction are bound to reflect aspects of the writer’s life, and mine does too. Many readers have written to me saying how they could identify with certain scenes and characters.  I’m always thrilled by this and am glad it also reflects the experiences of readers, as a wife, husband, brother, mother, child or friend. I also love it when readers say they could feel themselves in the scenes with my characters and experience the setting. Lots of people who have never been to Scotland have said it made them want to jump on the next plane!

My next book is partly set in Scotland, where my heart will always be, but there is also sections set in Switzerland where I now live. I hope that readers will also be able to identify with these settings.

Thank you, Emma, for having me as a guest on your lovely damppebbles blog.  You can read more about me on my website, www.alisonbaillie.com on Facebook at Alison Baillie Author https://www.facebook.com/alisonbaillieauthor/ and occasionally on Twitter at alisonbailliex.

***

A pleasure Alison, thank you for your fantastic post.  Please feel free to stop by damppebbles again soon.

Smith & Sons (11)

Alison Taylor-Baillie

ALISON BAILLIE was brought up in Ilkley, Yorkshire by Scottish parents. She studied English at the University of St Andrews, before teaching English in Edinburgh secondary schools and EFL in Finland and Switzerland. Now she spends her time reading, writing, travelling, playing with her granddaughter and attending crime writing festivals.