#BlogTour | #BookReview: Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg @MichaelJBooks #NobodyButUs #damppebbles

“He’s a well-respected college professor. She’s a young and eager-to-please student.

He knows she would do anything for him. She knows his certainty is his weakness

He thinks he’ll get what he wants. She thinks he’ll get exactly what he needs.

Two liars.
One twisted path.
A game of cat and mouse.
BUT WHO IS THE HUNTER? AND WHO IS THE PREY?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg. Nobody But Us was published by Penguin Michael Joseph in paperback format on 10th November 2022. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Nobody But Us but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jen and Sriya at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

THIS BOOK! As soon as I laid eyes on Laure Van Rensburg’s debut thriller I knew I had to read it. That cover is glorious, the blurb is so utterly intriguing and the tagline was pretty unforgettable – meet 2022’s most f*cked up couple! I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Nobody But Us and oh boy, it delivered on every count and more.

Ellie and Steven have finally managed to find a gap in their busy schedules to get away for a few days and celebrate their six month anniversary. They’re heading to an isolated cabin in the woods, many miles away from the hustle and bustle of New York. It will be the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time together and really get to know each other. A perfect weekend for a perfect couple. Except, that’s not quite the truth. Ellie and Steven are far from perfect. They both have secrets. They’re both liars…

Dark and intoxicating, Nobody But Us is an exquisite yet deeply unsettling read which pulled me into its pages instantly and didn’t let go until the brutal end. The tension the author conveys is palpable. I felt as though I was on a precipice and at any moment the ground could fall away beneath my feet. Who would make it out of the cabin alive? Would either of them? Both of them? Neither of them? The drama was pinpoint sharp, the dance of these two adversaries towards the denouement, full of danger and anger, was utterly compelling. I didn’t want to be parted from this story for any amount of time but when I was, it was ALL I could think about.

Told in the present with flashbacks to the past, the author ensures the reader gets the full uncomfortable picture of what led these two characters to this point. And with a small cast of characters we really get to know the bones of Van Rensburg’s creations. The propulsive plot and with suspense building throughout it felt as though I was watching a movie play out before me. Precariously balanced on the edge of my seat and with my heart in my mouth.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Nobody But Us is an exceptional debut and I’m excited to see what this author publishes next. Very unsettling, hugely character driven – just how I like my thrillers – and near impossible to be parted from for any length of time. The pace of the novel draws the reader into the story and puts you on edge immediately. You never really know what direction the author is going to take next and as an avid reader of thrillers, that is a wonderful thing! I loved the isolated setting (also a fan of thrillers where help is nowhere near) and the perfectly placed twists and turns. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Nobody But Us. I found it refreshing, sophisticated and utterly captivating. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Nobody But Us. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 10th November 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Laure Van RensburgLaure Van Rensburg is a French writer living in the UK and an Ink Academy alumna. Her stories have appeared in online magazines and anthologies such as Litro Magazine, Storgy Magazine, The Real Jazz Baby (2020 Best Anthology, Saboteur Awards 2020), and FIVE:2:ONE. She has also placed in competitions including 2018 & 2019 Bath Short Story Award.

#BookReview: Summer Fever by Kate Riordan @MichaelJBooks #SummerFever #damppebbles

“A HOT ITALIAN SUMMER. TWO COUPLES. ONE DARK SECRET THAT COULD RUIN EVERYTHING. . .

Nick and Laura are the hosts: pretending their marriage isn’t on the rocks.

Madison and Bastian are the guests: neither is remotely who they claim to be.

Under the scorching Mediterranean sun, no secret is safe.
No betrayal goes unnoticed.
Two couples. But will either survive the summer . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Summer Fever by Kate Riordan. Summer Fever was published by Penguin Michael Joseph on 12th May 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of Summer Fever but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

I was immediately drawn to this book thanks to that striking cover. Add to that the fact that I’m addicted to summer thrillers at the moment which meant Summer Fever was a ‘must read’ for me. I think despite having a week in sunnier climes earlier this year I’m still yearning for hot, tropical summer days somewhere that isn’t, well, here. Perhaps after losing two years of travel to COVID my need to escape my quiet, dare I say ‘boring’ small town is still very present. Hence my addiction to summer thrillers. Summer Fever transported me to the Marche region of Italy and I loved the time I spent in the author’s world. It was sexy, sultry and chock full of suspense.

Laura and Nick have finally taken the plunge and purchased a villa in the Marche region of Italy leaving behind their troubles, the drudgery of the UK and sticking a plaster firmly over the cracks in their marriage. They plan to open the villa to guests, offering a tailor made service of fine dining, rural living and local tours. When their first guests arrive, a couple from the US called Madison and Bastian, Laura realises that they still have a lot of issues to iron out. Gradually Laura is drawn into Madison’s spontaneous, confident and carefree orbit and the two women become friends. But all is not as it seems. Both couples have secrets. Both couples are hiding something from the other. And it could be the death of them…

I really enjoyed Summer Fever with its beautifully drawn setting, pressing summer heat and intriguing characters. It’s clear to the reader from the outset that there is tension between Laura and Nick. Something has driven a wedge between the couple and as a result Nick has blithely gone along with the idea of moving to Italy, if only to placate Laura. There is an ever present tension between the two of them which I found thoroughly intriguing. I wanted to know what the story was. The reader gets a glimpse into Laura’s past and her time spent at university prior to meeting Nick. These flashbacks expose several of Laura’s character flaws which only made her all the more interesting to me. She’s not a particularly likeable character but because of that, I personally was drawn to her.

The arrival of their American guests ramps the tension up ten-fold. There was a new air to proceedings which pulled me into the story further. The chemistry between Laura and Bastian is undeniable, almost palpable, but with their partners looking on, with nowhere to hide, they must play by the rules. The author handles the suspense incredibly well and I was hooked, unsure how things were going to turn out for these two couples. There are several twists and turns along the way. One of which I was able to spot from fairly early on. Others left me with my jaw on the floor. The ending was completely unexpected, very satisfying and cleverly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Summer Fever is a sophisticated, sexy thriller which I found utterly absorbing and hard to put down. The slow build storyline is beautifully crafted and drew me into the world occupied by Riordan’s fascinating characters. I found the plot both tense and gripping with lots of delicious suspense which I, of course, adore! I could picture Villa Luna Rossa and the area surrounding it with ease and loved how it played such a pivotal role in the story. Shocking but absolutely perfect. All in all this is a superb summer thriller, perfect for reading by the pool or lounging in the garden dreaming of Italy. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Summer Fever. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Summer Fever by Kate Riordan was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 12th May 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kate RiordanKate Riordan is a writer and journalist. She is an avid reader of Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie, both of whom have influenced her writing. She lives in the Cotswolds, where she writes full-time.

#BookReview: Outside by Ragnar Jónasson @MichaelJBooks #Outside #damppebbles

“In a deadly Icelandic snowstorm, four friends seek shelter in an abandoned hunting lodge.

But nothing can prepare them for what’s inside.

Forced to spend a long and terrifying night in the cabin, they watch intently and silently.

Just as they themselves are being watched.

As the night darkens, and old secrets spill into the light, it’s soon clear that what they’ve discovered in the cabin is far from the only mystery lurking there.

Nor the only thing to be afraid of . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Outside by Ragnar Jónasson. Outside was published last week (on Thursday 28th April 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Outside but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sriya at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

Four friends – Daníel, Ármann, Helena and Gunnlaugur – who due to the demands of life haven’t seen each other for a while, plan a hunting trip to the Icelandic highlands. After a difficult boozy first night at base camp they head, armed with a couple of shotguns, into the Icelandic wilderness. Only for a deadly snowstorm to hit part way through their trek scuppering their plans. The group believe their luck is in when they stumble upon a cabin. But once inside, they realise their haven is far from safe. The dangers lurking in the cabin are just as deadly as the storm raging outside…

Outside is a well-written, short and punchy suspense thriller which gave me chills. I found myself flying through this novel thanks to the intriguing story and the short chapters, each told from one of the four friends point of view. They’re an odd mix of people. I didn’t really feel I had the measure of any of them, apart from Gunnlaugur. It was clear from the outset that he’s a very sad, lonely man with an addiction to alcohol (but that certainly doesn’t excuse his terrible behaviour in any way, shape or form!). But you don’t need to have the measure of these characters to be swept along in their gripping story.

As soon as the storm worsens, the tension mounts and they begin to turn on each other. When they finally make it inside the cabin and they realise exactly how dire their situation is, it becomes almost unbearable. The author is clearly a master of suspense because there was no way on this earth I was going to walk away from this novel once I had made a start. I HAD to know what was going to happen to these people and most importantly of all, WHY was it happening?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Outside is a ‘read in one sitting’ suspense thriller which sent shivers down my spine thanks to the exquisite tension created by the author and his stunning use of imagery. Despite being lost in the wild and unforgiving highlands of Iceland, the setting, thanks to the relentless snow storm, was beautifully claustrophobic. This is the second book I’ve read by this author and it won’t be the last. A well-written, hold your breath thriller which I couldn’t put down. Recommended.

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

Outside by Ragnar Jónasson was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 28th April 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Ragnar Jónasson

Ragnar Jonasson is author of the award winning and international bestselling Dark Iceland series.

His debut Snowblind, first in the Dark Iceland series, went to number one in the Amazon Kindle charts shortly after publication. The book was also a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. Snowblind has been a paperback bestseller in France.

Nightblind won the Dead Good Reader Award 2016 for Most Captivating Crime in Translation.

Snowblind was called a “classically crafted whodunit” by THE NEW YORK TIMES, and it was selected by The Independent as one of the best crime novels of 2015 in the UK.

Rights to the Dark Iceland series have been sold to UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia, Poland, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Morocco, Portugal, Croatia, Armenia and Iceland.

Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

He is also the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir.

From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic.

Ragnar has also had short stories published internationally, including in the distinguished Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in the US, the first stories by an Icelandic author in that magazine.

He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik.

#BookReview: Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg @MichaelJBooks #NobodyButUs #damppebbles

“Steven Harding is a handsome, well-respected professor.
Ellie Masterson is a wide-eyed young college student.

Together, they are driving south from New York, for their first holiday: three days in an isolated cabin, far from the city.

Ahead of them, the promise of long, dark nights – and the chance to explore one another’s bodies, away from disapproving eyes.

It should be a perfect, romantic trip for two.

EXCEPT THAT HE’S NOT WHO HE SAYS HE IS.

BUT THEN AGAIN, NEITHER IS SHE . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg. Nobody But Us will be published by Penguin Michael Joseph in hardcover, audio and digital formats later this week (that’s Thursday 14th April 2022) with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Nobody But Us but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jen at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

THIS BOOK! As soon as I laid eyes on Laure Van Rensburg’s debut thriller I knew I had to read it. That cover is glorious, the blurb is so utterly intriguing and the tagline was pretty unforgettable – meet 2022’s most f*cked up couple! I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Nobody But Us and oh boy, it delivered on every count and more.

Ellie and Steven have finally managed to find a gap in their busy schedules to get away for a few days and celebrate their six month anniversary. They’re heading to an isolated cabin in the woods, many miles away from the hustle and bustle of New York. It will be the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time together and really get to know each other. A perfect weekend for a perfect couple. Except, that’s not quite the truth. Ellie and Steven are far from perfect. They both have secrets. They’re both liars…

Dark and intoxicating, Nobody But Us is an exquisite yet deeply unsettling read which pulled me into its pages instantly and didn’t let go until the brutal end. The tension the author conveys is palpable. I felt as though I was on a precipice and at any moment the ground could fall away beneath my feet. Who would make it out of the cabin alive? Would either of them? Both of them? Neither of them? The drama was pinpoint sharp, the dance of these two adversaries towards the denouement, full of danger and anger, was utterly compelling. I didn’t want to be parted from this story for any amount of time but when I was, it was ALL I could think about.

Told in the present with flashbacks to the past, the author ensures the reader gets the full uncomfortable picture of what led these two characters to this point. And with a small cast of characters we really get to know the bones of Van Rensburg’s creations. The propulsive plot and with suspense building throughout it felt as though I was watching a movie play out before me. Precariously balanced on the edge of my seat and with my heart in my mouth.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Nobody But Us is an exceptional debut and I’m excited to see what this author publishes next. Very unsettling, hugely character driven – just how I like my thrillers – and near impossible to be parted from for any length of time. The pace of the novel draws the reader into the story and puts you on edge immediately. You never really know what direction the author is going to take next and as an avid reader of thrillers, that is a wonderful thing! I loved the isolated setting (also a fan of thrillers where help is nowhere near) and the perfectly placed twists and turns. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Nobody But Us. I found it refreshing, sophisticated and utterly captivating. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Nobody But Us. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Laure Van RensburgLaure Van Rensburg is a French writer living in the UK and an Ink Academy alumna. Her stories have appeared in online magazines and anthologies such as Litro Magazine, Storgy Magazine, The Real Jazz Baby (2020 Best Anthology, Saboteur Awards 2020), and FIVE:2:ONE. She has also placed in competitions including 2018 & 2019 Bath Short Story Award.

#BookReview: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel @MichaelJBooks #ThisMightHurt #damppebbles

“Natalie Collins always has a plan.
Her troubled younger sister Kit rarely does.

Until Kit finds Wisewood, a secretive self-help retreat on a secluded Maine island. It promises you’ll leave a better, braver version of yourself.

But why does it forbid contact with the outside world? Why are there no testimonies from previous guests? Natalie fears it is some kind of cult.

Then, after six months of silence, she receives an email from Wisewood:

Would you like to come tell your sister what you did – or should we?

Who is digging into the sisters’ past? How did they discover Natalie’s secret? A secret that will destroy Kit.

She has no choice but to go to Wisewood, to find out if this place of healing has more sinister motives.

But as she’s about to discover, Wisewood is far easier to enter than to leave . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel. This Might Hurt was published by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (Thursday 3rd March 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of This Might Hurt but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Gaby at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

I thoroughly enjoyed Wrobel’s debut, The Recovery of Rose Gold, when I picked it up towards the end of 2021. The twisted mother/daughter story really wormed its way under my skin and I loved Wrobel’s deeply flawed characters. I was excited to read more by the author so was beyond delighted to receive an ARC of This Might Hurt, which I made a start on as soon as humanly possible!

Natalie Collins is a confident and assured businesswoman. She strives for the best and does everything she can to make it happen. Unlike her sister, Kit, who is emotional and a little bit needy. When Natalie receives an email from Wisewood Wellness and Therapy Centre concerning her sister, she’s immediately alarmed. The tone of the email is threatening, suggesting Natalie should tell Kit her secret before someone else does. In an attempt to control the situation and save Kit’s fragile feelings, Natalie drops everything and goes to Wisewood, despite knowing that visitors are most definitely NOT welcome nor permitted. On arrival it’s clear that not everything is as it seems. The set-up appears…cultish. The retreat members seem….brainwashed. What has Kit got herself into and will the sisters ever get themselves out…?

This Might Hurt is a suspense-laden story with themes of sisterhood, grief and vulnerability featuring two very different women, going about their lives and dealing with a recent trauma in very different ways. The reader gets to hear from a third, unknown younger voice as well and whilst I was keen to find out more about Natalie and Kit, the younger voice, for me, absolutely stole my attention. The unknown child is subjected to mental and physical cruelties by her heinous father who she and her sister, Jack, refer to as Sir. He pushes the child to be the best she can be and punishes her greatly for any failings (and there are many). As a result, the child turns to magic and begins to idolise Houdini. After all, Houdini managed to escape which is exactly what she hopes to do! I enjoyed Natalie’s chapters as she made her way to Wisewood but I REALLY looked forward to hearing from the unknown narrator. She had a new and unique voice which hooked me in and held my attention.

As a fairly avid reader of crime fiction and psychological thrillers I’m always thinking ahead when I read. Trying to work out how certain aspects of the plot will eventually fit together. I couldn’t for the life of me work out what part the unknown narrator would play but Wrobel brings everything together beautifully, ensuring all loose ends are expertly tied off.

There were many things I loved about This Might Hurt. The contrast between the two sisters, the isolation of the Wisewood island just off the coast of Maine, seeing exactly how far a manipulative and highly convincing person can push a bunch of intelligent but insecure individuals, and of course the cult/commune aspect (I do love fiction based around cults!). The setting really was very atmospheric and I could feel the chill air on my skin as things took a downturn for Natalie. The sense of being watched and constantly monitored was ever present. Wonderful stuff!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. I enjoyed This Might Hurt with it’s fascinating characters, intricate plot and different setting. Wrobel writes the uncomfortable family dynamic very well and This Might Hurt, alongside The Recovery of Rose Gold, prove her talent beyond doubt.  A compelling read where the manipulation and control being dished out will send shivers down your spine and make you squirm. Very entertaining, highly original and full of tension. I look forward with baited breath to the authors next book. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of This Might Hurt. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 3rd March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Stephanie WrobelStephanie Wrobel is the author of Darling Rose Gold, a USA Today and international bestseller that has sold in twenty-one countries and was shortlisted for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Wrobel grew up in Chicago and now lives in London. This Might Hurt is her second novel.

#BookReview: Breathless by Amy McCulloch @MichaelJBooks #Breathless #damppebbles

“When struggling journalist Cecily Wong is invited to join an expedition to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains, it seems like the chance of a lifetime.

She doesn’t realise how deadly the climb will be.

As their small team starts to climb, things start to go wrong. There’s a theft. Then an accident. Then a mysterious note, pinned to her tent: there’s a murderer on the mountain.

The higher they get, the more dangerous the climb becomes, and the more they need to trust one another.

And that’s when Cecily finds the first body . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Breathless by Amy McCulloch. Breathless is published today (that’s Thursday 17th February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Breathless but that has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may be aware that I have a bit of a thing for books set in unpredictable, inhospitable, snow covered environments (normally the Alps or the Himalayas). Where the cold, the altitude or a sudden avalanche could kill you in the blink of an eye. I find the drive mountaineers have to conquer the next peak utterly fascinating. Throw in a murderer and you’ve got a book I HAD to read!

Adventure journalist Cecily Wong is shocked when renowned mountaineer, Charles McVeigh, invites her to join his team as they climb Mt. Manaslu. On summiting Mt. Manaslu McVeigh will achieve the impossible and enter the record books – climbing all 8,000 metre mountains, ‘the Death Zone’ peaks, in twelve months. An elusive interview with the poster-boy of the climbing world has been promised to Cecily as soon as they summit. It’s the kind of opportunity she can’t miss and could resuscitate her failing career. But after months of careful preparation and planning, things immediately start to go wrong and a fellow mountaineer dies before reaching base camp. Cecily and her team are in grave danger. If the mountain doesn’t destroy them, the killer will…

Breathless is a thoroughly enjoyable psychological murder mystery set at high altitude. I loved how in-depth this novel was with lots of fascinating detail about mountaineering and the processes involved. The author’s knowledge absolutely shines through giving the story a level of realism that other novels set in similar environments don’t always have. I really enjoyed how realistic the story felt and I’ve come away from Breathless feeling as though I’ve learnt more about mountaineering than I knew before (not that I claim to know much, of course!). It was also very easy to feel I was there on the mountain with Cecily thanks to McCulloch’s vivid imagery.

I warmed to Cecily over the course of the book. Being a fairly new mountaineer, and one yet to reach the summit of any mountain, she is the least experienced of the group which brings its own challenges. But she’s determined to prove herself. Cecily also harbours a traumatic secret which she will do everything she can to protect. The guilt she carries and the memories she holds just won’t let her be. She’s a fantastic lead protagonist – flawed, inexperienced and on edge. Not the cool, calm, confidence you want 7,000 metres above sea level! The other characters in the book are all well-written and each play their part in the story. I enjoyed the way not everyone in the team got on, the underlying ever present tension was wonderful, with the friction really adding to the unease.

The suspense builds at a great pace getting under the skin of the reader ensuring you keep turning those pages. As the book raced towards its heart-pounding climax I found myself holding my breath (pun intended! 😉), completely absorbed by McCulloch’s writing. And what an ending it is! I had my suspicions as to whodunit which were correct but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying Breathless. The characters, the setting, the complete isolation miles away from help, this book ticked so many boxes for me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed Breathless with its compelling story, fascinating look into mountaineering life, interesting characters and stunning setting. The author’s descriptions of mountain life and the processes the climbers need to complete made the story feel authentic without being overly complicated or turning the novel into a convoluted ‘how to’ guide. As I mentioned earlier in this review, I am fascinated by the drive and fearlessness mountaineers possess. Pushing their bodies to the limits in the most inhospitable circumstances, all for that momentary high of reaching the summit. If you’re anything like me with the same fascination, or if you just enjoy a well-written psychological murder mystery, then make sure you add Breathless to your shelf. All in all, a great read set in one of the deadliest places in the world. Recommended.

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

Breathless by Amy McCulloch was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 17th February 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

(c) Charlotte Knee Photography

Amy McCulloch is a Chinese-White author, born in the UK, raised in Ottawa, Canada, now based in London, UK. She is the co-author of the #1 YA bestselling novel THE MAGPIE SOCIETY: One for Sorrow, and has written seven solo novels for children and young adults. She has hit the bestseller lists in several countries around the world, and been published in fifteen different languages.

Before becoming a full-time writer, she was editorial director for Penguin Random House Children’s Books. In 2013, she was named one of The Bookseller‘s Rising Stars of publishing.

When not writing, she loves travelling, hiking and mountaineering. In September 2019, she became the youngest Canadian woman to climb Mt Manaslu in Nepal – the world’s eighth highest mountain at 8,163m (26,781ft). Other addictions include coffee, ramen and really great books.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Perfect Escape by Leah Konen @MichaelJBooks #ThePerfectEscape #damppebbles

“YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO STOP READING.
BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT . . .

When her husband Harry walks out after just six months, a girls’ weekend away with two friends seems like just what Sam needs.

But they aren’t even halfway to their destination when things start to go wrong: car trouble that just happens to leave them stranded in the town where Harry lives.

And that’s only the beginning.

Because there are three things Sam doesn’t yet know:

One of her friends is lying about what happened.
One is lying about who she is.
And one of them will never make it home . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Perfect Escape blog tour. The Perfect Escape by Leah Konen was published by Penguin Michael Joseph on 3rd February 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Perfect Escape but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Kallie at Michael Joseph Books for sending me a proof copy.

I could not resist The Perfect Escape. Secrets, lies and betrayals aplenty by the sound of the blurb. And I completely fell for the eerie cover as well. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this one and what a fantastic, compelling read it was!

Sam, Margaret and Diana are three friends with something in common. They’ve recently split up, or are in the painful process of splitting up, with their husbands. Sam is heartbroken after the love of her life, Harry, walked out on their marriage after only six months. Margaret is trying to convince husband, Lars, that there really is no going back for them as a couple. And Diana’s husband, Brandon, won’t let her be. Diana just wants to get on with her life but Brandon always finds her, he’s always watching. To cheer themselves up, the women book a girls weekend away. But shortly after setting off they have car trouble leaving them stranded in the town Harry now lives with the woman he left Sam for. At every turn their plan to continue on their journey is thwarted. Who is pulling out all the stops to keep them in Catskill? And does Sam know her friends as well as she thinks…?

The Perfect Escape is an eminently readable novel which I devoured with glee in a few short sittings. I instantly became caught up in the lives of the three female leads, wondering where the author was going to take their story and how things were going to turn out. When one of the women vanishes without trace, all plans to continue to their weekend retreat are put on hold. The investigation into her disappearance is slow, clumsy and not taken seriously. That is, until the body is discovered.

I loved the impending sense of doom the author conveys across the story. You know something terrible is going to happen and I was on the edge of my seat as the story progressed. There are lots of twists and turns along the way which I really enjoyed. One aspect I was able to guess but it certainly didn’t spoil the story for me. I wasn’t able to fathom the intricacies of the reveal so in reality, I don’t think I can claim any victory on that score! The Perfect Escape was so well paced and utterly compelling that I was 100% in the story with the women as they made startling discovery, after startling discovery. I was questioning everyone and everything. Who could be trusted? And who couldn’t…?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed The Perfect Escape. I found it be a very absorbing read and a complete page-turner from start to finish. Packed full of intrigue and suspense, I enjoyed my journey to Catskill with Sam, Margaret and Diana and I would happily read more from this author. A very binge-worthy novel which would make a cracking TV series. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Perfect Escape. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

So, what do you think? Fancy reading The Perfect Escape yourself? Then head on over to my Twitter and instagram feeds for your chance to win one of two paperback copies. Terms & Conditions: UK readers only. Giveaway closes at midday on Saturday 12th February 2022. The two winners will need to provide their postal address which will then be passed onto the team at Michael Joseph books for dispatch. Good luck!

And if you’re not lucky enough to win a paperback copy then The Perfect Escape is available to purchase in ebook format for only 99p throughout February 2022.

The Perfect Escape by Leah Konen was published in the UK on 3rd February 2022 by Penguin Books and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Leah KonenLeah Konen is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and English literature. She lives in Brooklyn and Saugerties, NY, with her husband and their dog, Farley. Find her online at leahkonen.com or on Twitter and Instagram @leahkonen.

#BookReview: The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks #TheBurningGirls #damppebbles

the burning girls“500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide

Welcome to Chapel Croft.

For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it’s supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn’t easily forgotten.

And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft’s history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome.

Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns.

Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls?
Who’s sending them sinister, threatening messages?
And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself?

Chapel Croft’s secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn’t touch them if not for Flo – anything to protect Flo.

But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft – and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year, The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor. The Burning Girls is published today (that’s Thursday 21st January 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in the Summer. I received a free eARC of The Burning Girls but that has in no way influenced my review.

I LOVE C.J. Tudor’s books. Tudor is a master storyteller and a new release from this author is always a highlight of my bookish year. I’ve been repeatedly checking NetGalley for MONTHS in the hope of seeing The Burning Girls appear (fangirling to the extreme!). So imagine my joy when this brilliant book landed on my Kindle in all of its eerie glory. Tudor has once again written a very compelling and human story with a nod to the supernatural. I really enjoyed it.

Following a high profile incident in Reverend Jack Brooks’ previous parish, the Rev. and 15-year-old daughter, Flo, are made to up sticks and move to the sleepy Suffolk village of Chapel Croft. But Chapel Croft isn’t the picturesque haven it makes itself out to be. Chapel Croft has a dark past which the residents are surprisingly proud of. Jack and Flo’s welcome isn’t quite what they hoped for and soon strange things start happening to the new arrivals. When Flo starts having peculiar visions and an anonymous parcel containing macabre artefacts arrives, the new vicar begins to fear for their lives…

I loved Jack. What a fantastic and memorable creation! Not your average vicar by a long shot. The internal dialogue the reader is party to is a wonderful thing and shows how completely human Jack is. Brutally so. Fearing for Flo’s safety in today’s modern world, Jack is plagued by concerns for Flo but without being a helicopter parent. Their relationship is heart-warming and felt very real to me.

The chapters in The Burning Girls are either from Jack or Flo’s point of view with a third unknown narrator sharing insights from their dark past along with their troubling thoughts. I found the chapters from the unknown narrator particularly eerie but that’s what this author does with style! Tudor skilfully ratchets up the ‘creep-factor’ which I find makes her books so utterly readable. I found myself looking forward to hearing from Jack who, I confess, I think I’m a little bit in love with.

Not only does the village’s past dominate daily life, the case of two missing teenagers from thirty years ago still weighs heavy on Chapel Croft. The disappearance of the vicar, alleged to have been one of the last people to see the girls, adds to the mystery. Then there are Jack’s concerns over Flo’s new friend (boyfriend?) who Jack can’t help but feel uncomfortable around. After all, no one will ever be good enough for Flo, no matter who they are. Add to this the fact that Flo is the new girl in town and isn’t all that worried about fitting in and Jack’s worries skyrocket.

I loved the intricacies of this novel. The strands where, no matter how hard you try, you can’t see the connection. Then all of a sudden…BOOM! It all makes perfect sense. I was a little wary of one aspect of the book and was proved correct but that in no way spoiled my enjoyment of this cracking novel.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend The Burning Girls and all of Tudor’s previous books. Another engrossing read from a superbly talented writer. I was pulled into this story hook, line and sinker and I loved every minute of it. Twists and turns galore, nothing is as it first appears and I am very grateful to have read such a fantastic story. Tudor has done it again and written an eerie mystery which I lapped up. I’m now left counting down the days until book five is released. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Burning Girls. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 21st January 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book DepositoryBookshop.orgGoodreads |

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cj tudorC. J. Tudor lives in Sussex, England with her partner and daughter.

Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voiceover and dog-walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.

#BookReview: The Other People by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks #TheOtherPeople #damppebbles

the other people

She sleeps, a pale girl in a white room . . .

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window.

She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’

It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them.

Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice . . .”

As far as most anticipated books go, The Other People is right up there teetering at the top of a fairly exclusive list. Newsflash people, I LOVE CJ TUDOR’S BOOKS. If you’re a regular reader of the blog then this may come as no surprise. Her first two releases – the blisteringly superb The Chalk Man, and the deliciously sublime The Taking of Annie Thorne both made my top books on the year list. No one writes like Caz Tudor – she’s in a league of her own. And if I haven’t convinced you to purchase The Other People (plus her back catalogue) in one short paragraph then I’m doing something wrong here. I might as well quit now 😂 (I’m not going to do that – just so you know.)

As soon as you start reading The Other People you know you’re in for one hell of a ride – quite literally! Up and down the M1 motorway. Gabe is a character that you can’t help but like. Tudor manages to make him thoroughly likeable despite his mounting flaws – something she has managed to achieve with all three of the male lead characters across her novels. Driving home one evening he spots a face he recognises in the car in front. It’s his young daughter, Izzy. He doesn’t recognise the car and Izzy should be at home with her mum. When the child mouthes the word ‘daddy’ Gabe is 100% sure it’s his daughter in the strange car. After that short fleeting glance, Gabe never sees his daughter again…

It’s not often you find a creepy, totally engrossing psychological suspense thriller set partly in a motorway service station. Necessary as they are, they’re not the most glamorous of locations but that was part of the appeal of this book for me. The setting and the set-up of the story was quite different to everything else I’ve read (please see previous comment about Caz Tudor being in a league of her own!). Tudor draws you into the story and makes you care about her characters with seemingly little effort. You also end up feeling that you don’t know half of what’s gone before, what’s happening behind the scenes, nor where you’ll end up heading as Gabe continues his search for Izzy. Other fascinating characters are brought into the mix; Fran and Alice who are running from something, Katie – the exhausted single mum of two who works every shift she can get at the service station. There’s the mysterious ‘Samaritan’ who ratches up the spooky factor ten-fold. Not forgetting the pale girl in the white room – what’s her role in all of this?

I spent a lot of time, whilst reading The Other People, trying to figure out how the different threads were connected. I was miles off. There was one aspect of the book I was able to guess in advance but I don’t think Ms Tudor will mind too much. Everything else came as a complete shock and left me reeling. And I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? One hundred per cent, yes! I can see it making an appearance on my top books of the year list (which will be the third year running for this author). If you haven’t experienced a CJ Tudor novel then that needs to change. The Other People is a stunning addition to this author’s body of work and I really can’t say it often enough, you need to read this book! Nerve-janglingly good, I was completely immersed in the story from start to finish. You’ll be reading through the night with this one.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Other People. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Other People by CJ Tudor was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 23rd January 2020 and is available in hardcover, ebook and audio formats (with the paperback to follow in Summer 2020): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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cj tudor

C. J. Tudor lives in Sussex, England with her partner and daughter.

Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voiceover and dog-walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.

#BookReview: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing #MyLovelyWife #damppebbles

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The twist at the end of the first chapter made me read through the nightJane Corry

Introducing the next generation of domestic thriller…

“Every marriage has secrets. Everyone has flaws. Your wife isn’t perfect – you know that – but then again nor are you.

But now a serial killer is on the loose in your small town, preying on young women. Fear is driving your well-behaved young daughter off the rails, and you find yourself in bed late at night, looking at the woman who lies asleep beside you.

Because you thought you knew the worst about her. The truth is you know nothing at all.

This is a thriller like nothing you’ve read before…”

A very warm welcome to damppebbles today and to my review of an incredibly popular debut, My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing. My Lovely Wife was published by Michael Joseph on 2nd May 2019 and is available in hardcover, audio and eBook formats with the paperback to follow in October. I received a free ARC of My Lovely Wife but that has in no way influenced my review.

When you’re talking psychological thrillers, I think there’s something about the seemingly mundane and ordinary that sparks an interest in me. I like secrets. I like to try and work out what is going to happen before the first clue is even laid before the reader. Yes, I am a wannabe detective but then I guess many of us crime fiction fans are, right? And that’s why I had to read this book. The blurb grabbed my attention immediately. I wanted to know more. My interest was well and truly piqued. I HAD to know what deep, dark secrets the pages of My Lovely Wife held.

This is an enjoyable read. It’s not long into the book before the first curveball is flung at the unsuspecting reader. I found myself to be quite thrown, taken aback even, but in an ‘oooooh, what’s going on here?’ – interest well and truly piqued – kind of way. From that moment forward I felt a wonderful sense of impending doom as the wannabe detective side of me kicked in and was drawing all sorts of conclusions…

It’s very difficult to say anything about the plot of this book without giving away a shed load of spoilers so I’m going to avoid that by telling you as little as possible about it and stick to my observations and how I felt about it. What I can tell you is that book is told from the point of view of the nameless husband (that’s right, we never actually discover his name, which was interesting because I picked up on this fairly early on and was on tenterhooks throughout looking for it!). He and his wife, Millicent, plus their two children who are in their early teens live, what on the surface, appears to be a fairly quiet life in Florida. She’s a real estate agent and he’s a tennis coach. But they have secrets! Oh boy, do they have secrets! I enjoyed this book but there were several aspects of this ‘secret’ which I struggled with. I couldn’t quite get my head around how it was so normal for them. How two random people who met on an aeroplane 15 years ago could haphazardly fall into the life they led and be completely OK with it. There were no discussions on the ethics of the situation between the two of them, no attacks of conscience and not once did they seen to doubt their situation (nothing significant anyway). Everything felt far too normal for me. I wanted peaks and troughs, I wanted questions and insecurities, moments of pure panic when the realisation hit home, but they just weren’t there. In truth, Millicent and the unnamed husband fit too nicely into the ‘normal’ box and it felt a little odd to me. Maybe I need my psychopaths a little crazier! There was one other twist which I could see coming but I’m putting that down to reading a shedload of psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators.

My heart ached for the couple’s young daughter who slowly starts to fall apart as the situation begins to worsen. Jenna goes from being a high achieving 13-year-old to an unstable child who unwittingly takes extreme measures to cope with how she’s feeling. She ends up meeting with a psychologist several times a week whilst her parents make excuses to not take her to the doctor’s office. Her parents watch as their bright young over-achiever starts to slowly deteriorate, but it changes nothing.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s an interesting read and one which, despite my reservations, I powered through. I found the ending a little obvious but I was on the lookout from the first word for that big twist. The final scenes in this book are superb and the book finished on a real high for me because of the wonderful way the author ended her story. I’m amazed this is a debut and I will pick up Samantha Downing’s next book without a moment’s hesitation. Recommended.

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

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 2nd May 2019 and is available in hardcover, audio and eBook 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.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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samantha downing.jpg

photo by Jacqueline Dallimore

Born in the Bay Area and now living in the Big Easy, I consider both to be home. Along the way I went to school, worked a few jobs and learned a thing or two. Throughout it all, I wrote. Never studied writing, it’s just a hobby that grew into a passion. A dozen books later, my first novel will be published in 2019. My Lovely Wife is not the first one I wrote, it’s the first one I submitted (trust me, the other eleven are terrible).

When I was a kid, my mom brought me to the library every two weeks. I checked out a stack of new books and new worlds. The best thing was becoming so absorbed in a book I couldn’t put it down. I walked around with it in front of my face, I took it to the bathroom, the kitchen, the book came with me wherever I went. I tripped, ran into walls and stubbed my toes because I never watched where I was going.

This is why I write. I want to tell stories that make people walk into walls.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website | Facebook |