#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: True Crime Story by Joseph Knox #TrueCrimeStory #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

‘What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’

In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. But where some versions of events overlap, aligning perfectly with one another, others stand in stark contrast, giving rise to troubling inconsistencies.

Shaken by revelations of Zoe’s secret life, and stalked by a figure from the shadows, Evelyn turns to crime writer Joseph Knox to help make sense of a case where everyone has something to hide.

Zoe Nolan may be missing presumed dead, but her story is only just beginning”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of True Crime Story by Joseph Knox. True Crime Story was published by Penguin on 17th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats.

I have been wanting to read a book by Joseph Knox for a number of years now. I’ve heard only good things about his Aidan Waits novels, a gritty Manchester based thriller series which sounds just my cup of tea! But then True Crime Story hit the shelves and the book world (the book world I inhabit anyway!) went bonkers for it. So, to celebrate the opening of a brand-new shiny Waterstones near where I live, I decided to treat myself to a new book – I picked True Crime Story. Well, that was over a year ago now, but I finally managed to find a gap in my reading schedule to squeeze it in. And what a treat it was!

Zoe Nolan, new to Manchester University alongside her twin sister Kim, disappears one December evening in 2011 without a trace. Seven years later aspiring author Evelyn Mitchell decides to write a book about Zoe’s disappearance, turning to bestselling author Joseph Knox (yes, THAT Joseph Knox – the guy with his name on the cover!) for help and advice. Evelyn manages to interview most of Zoe’s friends and family, slowly piecing together the mystery surrounding Zoe’s disappearance. What she is told from those who knew Zoe best rings true. Their stories, their points of view are the same. But Evelyn can’t ignore the startling differences she also discovers. Will Evelyn, with the help of Joseph, be able to solve the mystery of Zoe’s disappearance before it’s too late…

In True Crime Story the author strives to give the reader the feeling that this is an actual true crime story. And he does. In spades. I finished reading this book several weeks ago and despite knowing this is 100% fiction, I still can’t shake the belief that it’s not in some way real. When I was a few chapters into the novel, I found myself googling Zoe Nolan, just in case someone by that name had ever gone missing. I’ve read other novels with a fictional true crime angle before but in my mind they’ve been just that, fictional. There was something about the way the author has written this story, perhaps immersing himself in the narrative in such a strong way, that totally worked for me. I know it’s not real but oh my gosh, it felt so true to life. The way the characters behave and act, their flaws and their idiosyncrasies, their relationships. I believed every single word.

The story is told using written and verbal transcripts collected by Evelyn Mitchell and sent to Joseph Knox for his thoughts, feelings and input. There are quite a few characters involved in the story – Zoe’s sister, her parents, her university friends, teaching staff and those investigating what happened in an official capacity. They all get to share their observations of Zoe (and each other!) in the lead up to the night of her disappearance. The book is presented in quite a different way that I can’t recall seeing before. There’s very little spoken dialogue as each character’s account is delivered to the reader as it was put to Evelyn. There’s no discussion, no sharing of ideas. She doesn’t ask questions or interrupt their memories. I know many readers don’t like a lot of dialogue between characters in their novels, that there can be a point where there’s too much and it detracts from the story, but I think I need that interaction. So much so that I did on occasion find myself drifting away from the story a little.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you enjoy well-written mysteries and you’re looking for something very different to the norm then True Crime Story is a must read. It’s a highly original, intelligent story delivered in such a way that it’s hard to forget. I would LOVE to listen to the audiobook version as I think that could be a slightly different experience, in a strange, inexplicable way. The author has done a masterful job in making his plot, his characters and the Manchester of the book totally believable, which I take my hat off to. I can only imagine the amount of work which went into plotting and planning Zoe’s story. What I do know for sure is that I am excited to read more by Knox and my copy of ‘Sirens’ will be moving to the top of the terrifying TBR as soon as possible. Recommended.

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 17th March 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 |

Joseph Knox

Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke-On-Trent and Manchester, where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London. He runs, writes and reads compulsively.

Sirens, his debut novel, was a Sunday Times bestseller, and his work has now been translated into 18 languages.

The Sleepwalker, his third novel, was released in July, 2019.

#BookReview: Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi #EightDetectives #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

All murder mysteries follow a simple set of rules.

In the 1930s, Grant McAllister, a mathematics professor turned author, worked them out, hiding their secrets in a book of crime stories.

Then Grant disappeared.

Julia Hart has finally tracked him down. She wants to know what happened to him.

But she’s about to discover that a good mystery can be murder to solve . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi. Eight Detectives was published by Penguin Books on 5th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose Eight Detectives as one of my ‘20 Books of Summer reads as I’ve been keen to make a start on since it arrived at damppebbles HQ last year. It’s also part of my ’12 books in 12 months challenge’.

As a side note to the ’20 Books of Summer Challenge’, today is officially the last day of the challenge and I’ve only managed to read 14 of my selected books. Which is a bit pants, in my opinion. I’ll post an official end of challenge post soon with the very disappointing facts and figures. However, what I will say is that I will be reviewing all of the 14 books I’ve read, I just won’t manage to do so within the challenge window.  So look out for ‘20 Books’ reviews coming your way over the next few months and into 2023 😲 (I know it’s not quite within the rules but hey, what can you do…?? 😂🙈)

Editor Julia Hart has been tasked with tracking down an elusive professor of mathematics turned author to discuss republishing his self-published novel ‘The White Murders’. Grant McAllister wrote a research paper titled ‘The Permutations of Detective Fiction’ which examined the mathematical structure of murder mysteries. From there ‘The White Murders’ was born. But the book, featuring seven short stories, each containing one of McAllister’s rules, was not successful. Which is why Julia has been tasked with locating McAllister on a remote Mediterranean island and convincing him to update and republish the work with her publisher, Blood Type Books. But on arrival at the island, Julia discovers there is more than one mystery to solve…

Eight Detectives is a complex, clever, assuredly written debut perfect for fans of the golden age of crime. The reader is presented with seven short stories, all of which feature one aspect of McAllister’s mathematical observations, the rules he believes are required in a murder mystery. Now, if you’re anything like me and mathematics is not your thing, then please don’t worry. The rules are fairly basic principles, for example, you need at least two suspects otherwise it’s not a murder mystery. Well, yes. How many victims can you have in a murder mystery? As many as you see fit. Following the first short story the reader is introduced to the two main characters in the book, Julia and Grant. This pattern continues for the entire novel; short story followed by analysis/discussion between writer and editor. These conversations were the sections I looked forward to the most, particularly as they tie everything together. They were very intriguing, I wanted to know more about the characters – particularly the elusive and mysterious professor. I think the author deserves an award for the amount of work and planning that’s gone into Eight Detectives. I don’t think this could have been an easy book to write with so many individual, standalone short stories, all within the same 1930s time period but all very different. With the overarching storyline of Julia and Grant keeping everything together.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of the golden age of crime, prefer a slower pace to your books or like a novel which makes you think then yes, I think you will enjoy Eight Detectives. This book received a lot of hype when it was first published but for me it fell a little short. I do feel I’m in the minority though. My favourite story in the book was the clear nod to Agatha Christie. I also enjoyed the first story set in Spain, the other stories I struggle to remember. There are some lovely twists and turns as the reader approaches the end of the book, several surprises which made me smile but I can’t help feeling that it just missed the mark for me. A great concept, cleverly written with interesting characters which I would recommend to fans of the golden age of crime.

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 5th August 2021 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

ImageAlex Pavesi lives in London, where he writes full time. He previously worked as a software engineer and before that obtained a PhD in Mathematics. He enjoys puzzles, long walks and recreational lock picking. Eight Detectives is his first book.

#BookReview: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus @PenguinUKBooks #OneofUsIsLying #damppebbles

Five students walk into detention. Only four come out alive.

Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.

Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.

Bad boy Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.

Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life.

And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about any of them again.

He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.

Everyone has secrets, right?
What really matters is how far you’ll go to protect them.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. One of Us Is Lying was published on 1st June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of One of Us Is Lying but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Simon at Penguin Books for sending me a proof copy.

Five teenagers from all walks of high school life end up in detention together. By the time detention is over, one of the teens has died. The circumstances look suspicious, particularly as the victim was about to reveal a devastating secret about each of his fellow students via his hugely popular gossip app. The police have their motive, now all they need to do is find the killer…

This book is HUGE! You’ve probably already heard about it, perhaps you’ve already read it or watched the Netflix series. I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for a short while now so decided to take the plunge and see if it’s as good as everyone says it is, see if the hype is real. Oh boy, the hype IS REAL! One of Us Is Lying is a cleverly written, YA mystery which I devoured in a few short sittings. With a cast of well-drawn characters (albeit a little stereotypical) and an intriguing, very compelling mystery at the heart of the novel, I was drawn into life at Bayview High and the mystery surrounding Simon’s death.

We get to hear from all four of the suspects – Nate, Addy, Bronwyn and Cooper – and see the story evolve from their perspectives. I thought the author did a fantastic job of showing how events affected the teens and how their lives changed, being at the centre of a murder investigation. The characters do all start out a little obvious, a little clichéd (the bad boy, the prom queen, the nerd and the jock) but by the end they’ve all morphed into much more interesting and multi-layered characters.  As I approached the end of the book I was sure I had reached the correct conclusion and worked out ‘whodunit’, only to be proved wrong. I was ‘sort of’ right but also ‘sort of’ wrong too 🤪

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. One of Us Is Lying is a fantastic debut and I’m excited to already have the follow-up, One of Us Is Next, on the shelf ready to be picked up at the earliest opportunity. One of Us Is Lying is a well-written, cleverly plotted YA mystery which I think will appeal to all mystery fans no matter what your age. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it’s easy to read and I found it to be quite the page-turner.  All in all, a very enjoyable debut which deserves the attention it’s received. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of One of Us Is Lying. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 1st June 2017 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Karen M. McManusKaren M. McManus is a #1 New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of young adult thrillers. Her work includes the One of Us Is Lying series, which has been turned into a television show on Peacock and Netflix, as well as the standalone novels Two Can Keep a Secret, The Cousins, You’ll Be the Death of Me, and Nothing More to Tell. Karen’s critically acclaimed, award-winning books have been translated into more than 40 languages.

#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: Keeper by Jessica Moor @PenguinUKBooks #Keeper #damppebbles

“He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes.
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

An addictive literary page-turner about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace, KEEPER will leave you reeling long after the final page is turned.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Keeper by Jessica Moor. Keeper was published by Penguin Books on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

I was drawn to Keeper thanks to it’s stunning cover, intriguing blurb and the numerous brilliant reviews it received when it was first published. I’ve been meaning to pick it up for a while now so when the opportunity arose at the end of 2021, I grabbed it.

When the body of a young woman is pulled from the river, all the signs point to suicide. Katie Straw was fairly new to Widringham but had settled quickly and seemed to enjoy working with the women at the refuge. But in truth, no one really knew her. However, the women at the refuge know one thing for sure. Katie didn’t take her own life. Something terrible happened to Katie but no one will listen…

Keeper is an all-consuming novel about losing control and not being able to do a single thing about it. It broke my heart, it made me angry – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this before. The themes are not new but oh my gosh, the way the author has presented Katie’s story really got under my skin. The reader watches as bit by bit, piece by piece, the situation changes for the worse and it’s devastating. So subtle, so precise, so absolutely terrifyingly real that I feel I lived this book alongside the characters.

Katie’s story is told in the past and following the discovery of her body, the present. Leading the investigation into Katie’s death are DS Whitworth and DC Brookes. Whitworth’s old-fashioned approach to policing, his somewhat outdated views and his penchant for being a little patronising all add to the uncomfortable feel of the book. He’s not an unkind man but he could certainly do with going on a few more cultural diversity training courses! However, saying that, I believe the author wrote Whitworth beautifully and he ended up evoking in me all of the emotions he was supposed to. Sublime writing.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Keeper is a dark, emotional and powerful tale of abuse and control which I struggled to put down. At times, I read from behind the safety of my hands, not wanting to completely see what was coming. At other times, I yelled at the book – anger and frustration bubbling over. I discovered after finishing Keeper that Jessica Moor has worked with female survivors of abuse which didn’t come as a surprise. The author’s compassion and understanding for her characters shone through, making it a book everyone should read. If a book can make you feel something then it’s a winner for me and Keeper made me feel a whole host of emotions. For that reason, it will be hard to forget this one and I look forward to seeing what the author has in store for us next. Recommended.

Keeper by Jessica Moor was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats 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 |

Jessica Moor

Jessica Moor grew up in south-west London and studied English at Cambridge before completing a Creative Writing MA at Manchester University where her dissertation was awarded the Creative Writing Prize for Fiction.

Prior to this she spent a year working in the violence against women and girls sector and this experience inspired her first novel, Keeper.

She was selected as one of the Guardian’s 10 best debut novelists of 2020 and is currently working on her next book.

#BookReview: The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks #TheRecoveryofRoseGold #damppebbles

“Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years.

Turned out her mother was a really good liar.

After five years in prison, Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with the daughter who testified against her – and care for her new infant grandson.

When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend. And she has waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

But has Patty truly forgotten their past?

And is Rose Gold really able to forgive?

A gripping and electrifying tale that will make you question your allegiances until the very end . . .”

Hello and a very Happy New Year! Goodbye 2021, you were a bit pants. Hello 2022, you’d better have some good books in store for us! No pressure but the brilliant books published last year were pretty much the only highlight in a damp squib of a year. Am I right? Anyhow, I digress… I hope the year ahead holds good things for you and yours, plus a myriad of cracking reads 🥂

Today I am delighted to share my review of The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. The Recovery of Rose Gold was published by Penguin Books on 18th February 2021 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Recovery of Rose Gold but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Michael Joseph for sending me a proof.

Dang, this book was blimmin’ good! I’ve been wanting to read it for ages. I remember it being very popular with fellow bloggers and reviewers when it was first published in hardcover, but for some strange reason, it’s taken me until now to pick it up. Which was a huge mistake on my part. HUGE. I loved it and I only wish I’d read it sooner.

Patty has served her time and is being released from prison. She has high hopes for the future as her daughter, Rose Gold Watts, has willingly agreed to collect her from the gates. She always knew Rose Gold didn’t mean what she said in court. Patty was only trying to look after her, like any mother would! Patty’s plan is to convince Rose Gold to allow her move in so she can get acquainted with her brand new grandson, make sure Rose Gold is looking after him properly and become an integral part of their little family. Rose Gold needs her mama, she always has. And what the courts accused Patty of, Rose Gold has forgiven her for all of that. Hasn’t she….?

The Recovery of Rose Gold is an astonishing debut. I never really felt as though I could trust any of the characters: their recollections of the past, nor what the future held. There are things bubbling beneath the surface here and the author’s ability to keep the reader constantly wondering, asking questions, shows what a superb writer Wrobel is. Has Rose Gold forgiven Patty for the years of abuse? Does Patty still truly believe everything she did for her daughter was for Rose Gold’s own good?

The story is told in two parts. Patty narrates the present day chapters and the more I read of her perspective, the more I despised her. Rose Gold narrates the ‘past’ sections which, throughout the book, work their way to the present day. The reader gets to see what Patty put Rose Gold through, the abuse disguised as love. It’s a difficult read, there’s no doubt about that. Dark themes, flawed characters, obsession by the bucket load, twisty and twisted. Bloody marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Recovery of Rose Gold is a tense, twisted read, and pretty much everything I love in a novel. The characters felt believably real, scarily so, and the story will stay with me for a long time to come. Very compelling and near impossible to put down. Addictive is an understatement for this one. Highly recommended.

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

The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 18th February 2021 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 |

Stephanie WrobelStephanie Wrobel grew up in Chicago but has been living in the UK for the last four years with her husband and her dog, Moose Barkwinkle. She has an MFA from Emerson College and has had short fiction published in Bellevue Literary Review. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a creative copywriter at various advertising agencies. The Recovery of Rose Gold is her first novel.

#BookReview: She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge @PenguinUKBooks #SheLiesInWait #damppebbles

“Seven teenagers went down to the woods. Only six came back . . .

30 years later, a body is discovered.

DCI Sheens already knows what’s waiting for him – Aurora Jackson, found at last.

What he doesn’t already know is that it’s murder.

All six witnesses insist on their innocence, but DCI Sheens is sure one of them is lying.

But who?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge. She Lies in Wait was published by Penguin Books in all formats on 12th December 2019. I chose to read and review a free ARC of She Lies in Wait which has in no way influenced my review.

She Lies in Wait is a book I have been wanting to read for a while now. When it was first published, it was HUGE and I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the brilliant reviews from fellow readers and bloggers. This is the author’s debut novel but it feels so accomplished, it’s hard to believe that’s the case! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting DCI Sheens and I’ve already added the next book in the series, Watching from the Dark, to my terrifying TBR.

When the remains of a body are found in Brinken Wood, DCI Jonah Sheens knows exactly who they belong to. It’s no surprise when his suspicions are confirmed and a thirty-year-old cold case comes bursting into the present day. Sheens was a junior officer when fourteen-year-old Aurora Jackson disappeared whilst on a camping trip with her older sister and her sister’s friends. Despite searching, Aurora was never found. Now it’s down to Sheens and his team to unearth more skeletons, pick apart a close group of friends and find out exactly what happened to Aurora that night in the woods thirty years ago…

Told in the past and the present, this beautifully written literary crime novel was an absolute joy to lose myself in. I adored Sheens and found him very intriguing. I think that’s the reason, along with the author’s accomplished storytelling, that I’m so keen to read the second book in this series. Sheens is of course supported by a group of well-defined supporting characters who all add something to the story.

As the eye of the investigation is turned once again on the group of friends, they close ranks. A great deal of time has passed since Aurora’s disappearance. Memories have faded, truths have been rewritten. Instead of being the self-obsessed teenagers they once were, they’re now self-obsessed and influential adults. Sheens and the team have their work cut out trying to solve the mystery and finally give closure to Aurora’s grieving family.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. She Lies in Wait is a well-written and well-executed slow-burn mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m looking forward to being reunited with Sheens and the team again soon. A great start to what promises to be a fantastic series. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of She Lies in Wait. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 12th December 2019 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 |

Gytha Lodge is a multi-award-winning playwright, novelist and writer for video games and screen. She is also a single parent who blogs about the ridiculousness of bringing up a mega-nerd small boy.

She has a profound addiction to tea, crosswords and awful puns. When not writing, she heads up a copywriting team at a global translation firm, where she generally tries to keep all the video-game writing to herself.

She studied English at Cambridge, where she became known quite quickly for her brand of twisty, dark yet entertaining drama. She later took the Creative Writing MA at UEA.

She has signed with Penguin Random House worldwide for the first three books in her crime series featuring DCI Jonah Sheens.

#BookReview: Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton #ThreeHours #damppebbles

“THREE HOURS TO SAVE THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege.

Pupils and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news.

In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton. Three Hours was published by Penguin Books on 29th October 2020 and is available in all formats. I couldn’t resist this book after seeing so many wonderful reviews.

However, I have been umming and ahhring about writing my review. Why? Because Three Hours absolutely broke me. Never has a book had such a powerful effect on me. It’s a sublime read but utterly devastating. I loved it but it ended up changing my mood.  It made me terribly sad and I hugged my kids just that little bit tighter because of it. Three Hours will stay with me forever.

On a snowy December day, oblivious to what is about to happen, the parents of Cliff Heights School drop their children off believing it to be just like any other school day. Only an hour later, the children start texting and tweeting their parents. There’s a gunman in the school. They’re terrified and hiding for their lives. The parents rush to the school but they’re turned away by the police, they feel helpless and can only watch from afar. The clock is ticking…

I’ve never read such a tense, compelling novel before. My heart was in my mouth from the very start and it stayed there throughout. I was living and breathing the story alongside the characters, like a movie playing in my mind. And the terror felt real. It was insane how deeply this book burrowed its way into my being. It was such an intense, emotional experience reading Three Hours.

I felt there were two sides to this story. You have the human side; the kids and teachers trapped in the school in fear for their lives, the parents being kept at a distance whilst being utterly helpless. And then you have the technical side; the police analysing every move the gunman makes, trying to pre-empt any demands and the reasons for carrying out such a horrific act. I loved the juxtaposition of these two faces – emotional versus technical and scientific. It’s a true race against time and I was on the edge of my seat throughout.

I had a feeling I knew where one of the plotlines in the book was heading but it still broke my heart into a million pieces when the truth was revealed. The author has written such an immersive, current and hypnotic novel. The bravery shown by the kids, the resilience and determination shown by the teachers, and the heartbreak shown by the parents makes for absorbing reading.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Reading Three Hours was such an experience for me that it will be impossible to forget. Beautifully written, full of drama and shedloads of terror-filled suspense. I devoured the book. It affected me greatly. Recommended.

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton was published by Penguin Books on 29th October 2020 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 | WaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Rosamund Lupton is the author of four novels.

Rosamund Lupton graduated from Cambridge University in 1986. After reviewing books for the Literary Review and being invited to join the Royal Court Theatre, she won a television play competition and subsequently worked as a screen writer. Her debut novel Sister, was a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, has been translated into over thirty languages and has international sales of over 1.5 million copies. It was the fastest-selling debut of 2010 by a British author, and was winner of the Richard and Judy Best Debut Novel of 2011 Award and the Strand Magazine Critics First Novel Award. Film rights of Sister are currently under option.

Lupton’s critically acclaimed second novel Afterwards also went straight into the Sunday Times bestseller lists and was the No. 2 Sunday Times fiction bestseller of 2011. The Quality of Silence her third novel was a Sunday Times best seller and a Richard & Judy bookclub pick

Her new novel Three Hours is a Sunday Times top ten best seller and a best book of 2020 in the Sunday Times, the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Stylist, Red & Good Housekeeping. It’s a Times and Sunday Times thriller of the month.

#BookReview: The Last by Hanna Jameson #TheLast #damppebbles

the last“THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT HAS ENDED

You and nineteen other survivors hole up in an isolated Swiss hotel.

You wait, you survive.

Then you find the body.

One of your number has blood on their hands.

The race is on to find the killer…BEFORE THE KILLER FINDS YOU.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last by Hanna Jameson with you. The Last was published by Penguin Books on 1st August 2019 and is available in all formats. I received a free ARC of The Last but that has in no way influenced my review.

I do love me a post-apocalyptic thriller! But I know what I like and conversely, what I don’t like. I read a book earlier this year which claimed to be a dystopian thriller. It was a whole lot of thriller and not a lot of dystopian. I wanted to find out how the characters coped with their ‘new normal’. I wanted to see conflict, fear and adjustment to the setting and the new ways of life. So I was a little apprehensive starting The Last. Would this book be much of the same? I’m delighted to confirm that The Last is far superior to the book I read earlier this year as Jameson puts her characters, their experience and their adjustment to the new ways, front and centre.

Historian Jon Keller is at a conference in a Swiss hotel when the bombs hit. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare come terrifyingly true. The nuclear bombs wipe out large proportions of the US, where Jon calls home, along with a large proportion of Europe. Thankfully Switzerland seems largely unaffected but who knows what kind of state the world is outside the hotel doors. The original number staying at the hotel has dwindled leaving twenty guests to come to terms with what has happened to them and forge a new life within the walls of L’Hotel Sixième. Roles have been redefined, the work is tough and everyone has to adjust to the new way of living. While investigating a problem with the water supply, Jon discovers a body in the water tank. The stark truth of the matter becomes worryingly clear. Within this small community, where they’ve come to depend on each other so much, one of them is a killer….

Now I know I referred to The Last as a post-apocalyptic thriller earlier in this review but it’s not really a thriller. It’s a well-written, slow build character study of people put in the worst scenario imaginable. The reader gets to watch as they struggle to survive, let alone cope with their new world from the comfort of their armchair. But, it’s a little too close to the knuckle in some respects and feels plausibly real. The mystery aspect of the story isn’t really the main crux of the book either but it’s an interesting storyline which gives Jon something to obsess over. And obsess over it he does. The mystery into who killed the girl almost completely consumes him.

I found Jameson’s characters really interesting to read about. Although I struggled to like any of them. But I’m not sure that’s necessarily what the author wants her readers to feel anyway. They’re all individuals coping the best way they can. Yes, they’re selfish, suspicious and on edge but that just added to my enjoyment of the book. The claustrophobic feel of the situation was absolutely marvellous and I thoroughly enjoyed the group’s plight (turns out I’m a horrible person taking enjoyment in others misfortune, good job they’re fictional characters really!).

The ending of this book threw me a little. I was expecting something big and bold but I didn’t get it. I felt the ending let the book down a little. The reader travels so far with these characters, you get to know them even if you don’t like them, and then…well – I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil the book for other readers but I was a little disappointed.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you like your novels character-driven then absolutely, The Last is a book you should read. I enjoyed the post-apocalyptic elements. I wanted them to go out exploring what was left of Switzerland and they did exactly that, with trepidation and caution. Some of their encounters were nail-biting and I loved the unease and tension in these sections away from the hotel. As I said previously, there was just enough of this strange new world to satisfy me. All in all, an intriguing premise that hooked me from the start. Recommended.

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

The Last by Hanna Jameson was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 1st August 2019 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 | Goodreads |

Hanna Jameson’s fourth novel, part murder mystery and part post-apocalyptic thriller – THE LAST – is out now with Viking in the UK and Simon & Schuster-Atria Books in the US. The Last is the story of an American academic searching for the truth about a girl who has been murdered in his Swiss hotel in the aftermath of a nuclear war that has destroyed most of the Western world.

Jameson had written the first draft of her debut, award-nominated novel – SOMETHING YOU ARE – at just seventeen. Something You Are and two further novels in the series – GIRL SEVEN and ROAD KILL – are available now in the UK, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands.

She lives in London currently, working on screenwriting projects. She likes whiskey, history, and emotionally taxing TV shows.