#BookReview: On the Edge by Jane Jesmond @Verve_Books #OnTheEdge #damppebbles

A FAST-PACED, TWISTY THRILLER WITH ECHOES OF DAPHNE DU MAURIER

Jen Shaw has climbed all her life: daring ascents of sheer rock faces, crumbling buildings, cranes – the riskier the better. Both her work and personal life revolved around climbing, and the adrenaline high it gave her. Until she went too far and hurt the people she cares about. So she’s given it all up now. Honestly, she has. And she’s checked herself into a rehab centre to prove it.

Yet, when Jen awakens to find herself drugged and dangling off the local lighthouse during a wild storm less than twenty-four hours after a ‘family emergency’ takes her home to Cornwall, she needs all her skill to battle her way to safety.

Has Jen fallen back into her old risky ways, or is there a more sinister explanation hidden in her hometown? Only when she has navigated her fragmented memories and faced her troubled past will she be able to piece together what happened – and trust herself to fix it.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of On the Edge by Jane Jesmond. On the Edge is published by Verve Books next week (on Tuesday 26th October 2021) and will be available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of On the Edge which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Hollie at Verve Books for sending me a proof copy.

Jenifry Shaw lives for climbing. It’s in her blood and something she’s been doing for as long as she can remember. There were no limits in Jen’s mind, often undertaking dangerous climbs just for the buzz it gave her. Until the accident. The accident changed everything and instead of climbing, Jen turned to recreational drugs for the same high. But the drugs are behind her now. She’s checked out of rehab and is on her way home to a small Cornish village to answer her brother’s call for help. But on her first night in Craighston, she regains consciousness, precariously hanging from the edge of the lighthouse with no memory of what happened to get her there. Jen has to face facts. She’s either back to her old habits, or someone from her past has just tried to kill her…

On the Edge is the most beautifully atmospheric novel I have read in a long time. I was swept away by the author’s vivid descriptions of the dark and stormy Cornish landscape, as tension built and Jen stumbled her way to the truth. Jen is a terrific character and I was pleased to see that this is the first book in a series. If you’re a fan of the unreliable narrator then Jen is your woman! Parts of her past are patchy due to her drug use, she’s never sure if she can trust herself and she questions everything. Her unreliability made for a suspenseful read which this reader thoroughly enjoyed.

The mystery at the heart of the book is an intriguing one and I was with Jen every step of the way as she considered the options and questioned her friends and family’s motives. The enigmatic new arrival in town, who Jen unquestionably has chemistry with, adds another thread for her to unpick as she tries to discover what happened to her that dark and stormy night. Can Jen trust him? Can Jen trust anyone? I found myself suspicious of most of the characters at one time or another, which is testament to the author’s wonderful, suspense-laden writing.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. On the Edge is a very impressive debut and I’m looking forward to picking up Jen Shaw’s next literary adventure as soon as it’s available. The attention to detail and the research that has gone into this book is clear to the reader from the outset. From what I can gather, the author isn’t a climber but you would never guess that from the precise knowledge she displays of the sport (I should add that I’m also NOT a climber and get a little dizzy on the upper deck of a double decker bus!). It’s not just the technical stuff though. It’s the way the feel of the rock is described, along with the smell and a myriad of other sensations which cumulate to give Jen the high she so desperately craves.  A very well thought out tale with an unexpected darker edge which I appreciated. All in all, a thoroughly tense and enjoyable book which transported me to the atmospheric Cornish moors. Recommended.

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

On the Edge by Jane Jesmond was published in the UK by Verve Books on 26th October 2021 and is available in paperback 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 |

Jane JesmondOn The Edge is Jane Jesmond’s debut novel and the first in a series featuring dynamic, daredevil protagonist Jen Shaw. Although she was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, raised in Liverpool and considers herself northern through and through, Jane’s family comes from Cornwall. Her lifelong love of the Cornish landscape and culture inspired the setting of On The Edge. Jane has spent the last thirty years living and working in France. She began writing steadily six or seven years ago and writes every morning in between staring out at the sea and making cups of tea. She also enjoys reading, walking and amateur dramatics and, unlike her daredevil protagonist, is terrified of heights! You can subscribe to her newsletter at https://jane-jesmond.com/contact/

#BookReview: Reprieve by James Han Mattson @BloomsburyBooks #Reprieve #damppebbles

“Most people didn’t make it to Cell Six, he said. Most called out the safe word – reprieve – after the first Cell. It was that intense.

When Bryan, Jaidee, Victor and Jane team up to compete at a full-contact escape room, it seems simple. Hold your nerve through six terrifying challenges; collect all the red envelopes; win a huge cash prize.

But the real horror is unfolding outside of the game, in a series of deceits and misunderstandings fuelled by obsession and prejudice. And by the end of the night, one of the contestants will be dead.

A startlingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism, and seamlessly threads together trial transcripts, evidence descriptions, and deeply layered individual narratives to present a chilling portrait of American life.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Reprieve by James Han Mattson. Reprieve was published by Bloomsbury on 5th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022. I chose to read a free eARC of Reprieve but that has in no way influenced my review.

Woah! This book. I tried so hard to resist Reprieve. I’ve fallen behind a little in my planned reading and my poor attention-hungry TBR is suffering. However, certain books, as soon as you see them, have an inexplicable hold over you. Which is exactly what happened with Reprieve. With its eye-catching cover and intriguing plot, I was hooked before I even cracked open the first page! Sadly for the rest of  my TBR, Reprieve was moved straight to the top of the pile.

John Forrester is a legend within horror circles. He is the owner of Quigley House. A full contact, ultra terrifying haunt/escape room which features six cells and a prize of $60,000 for making it to the end. The latest team to the take on the challenge have an edge though. They’re determined to claim the prize and go down in history as only the second group to win. But Quigley House has other plans…

An unsettling, unforgettable read where horrors creep around every corner. Reprieve is a book which shines a powerful light on social inequalities across modern day America. Hugely topical and quite the eye-opener, the author has created a novel which delights in making its readers feel uncomfortable, and rightly so! I couldn’t put this book down. A chilling exploration of manipulation and greed, I was drawn into the story from the outset and now feel quite bereft that it’s over. Reprieve will stay with me for some time to come though, I can tell you!

The concept the plot is built around is just my cup of tea. A horror themed escape room in an old converted house. Complete the timed challenge in each room and collect the required number of red envelopes as you go. The only thing in your way: crazed, mutilated characters – the stuff your worst nightmares are made of, gallons of fake blood and actual, real-life pain as you’re zapped by a shock wand or beaten up a bit (all within reason, of course!). If it all gets too much (and for most contestants, it does!) then call out the safe word, ‘reprieve’. But you can wave goodbye to a share of the $60,000.

The story is told from several points of view including a court transcript. The characters in the book are all well written and elicited some sort of emotion within me. I liked to see the different sides of the story, how the author used those different POVs to build up to the finale of the book. And what a tense and unnerving denouement it was!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Reprieve is a compelling, shocking story which I strongly recommend to those who don’t mind a drop of blood in their fiction. Whilst the escape room concept is a flipping marvellous one, it’s really only the device the author uses to bring everything together. Reprieve is so, so much more than its blurb. Strong characters, an atmospheric, somewhat unnerving setting and a very important take-home message. Recommended.

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

Reprieve by James Han Mattson was published in the UK by Bloomsbury on 5th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022 (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 |

James Han MattsonJames Han Mattson was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in North Dakota. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has received grants from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America and Humanities North Dakota. He has been a featured storyteller on The Moth, and has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Cape Town, the University of Maryland, the George Washington University, Murray State University, and the University of California – Berkeley. In 2009, he moved to Korea and reunited with his birth family after 30 years of separation.

He is the author of two novels: The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves and Reprieve. He is currently the fiction editor of Hyphen Magazine.

#BookReview: The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell @emblabooks #TheMidnightMan #damppebbles

“If you open your door to the Midnight Man
Hide with a candle wherever you can
Try not to scream as he draws near
Because one of you won’t be leaving here…

On Halloween night in Slayton, five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game. They write their names on a piece of paper and prick their fingers to soak it in blood. At exactly midnight they knock on the door twenty-two times – they have invited the Midnight Man in.

It was supposed to be a game, but only four girls come home.

Detective Sarah Noble has just returned to the force, and no one knows more about Blackhall Manor than her. It’s a case that will take Sarah back to everything she’s been running from, and shake her to the core.

Will she be ready to meet the Midnight Man?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell. The Midnight Man was published by Embla Books yesterday (that’s Wednesday 13th October 2021) and is available in digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Midnight Man but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m a huge fan of Caroline Mitchell’s books and have read a fair few over the years. When I heard she was returning to her spooky roots with a creepy pre-Halloween offering, I jumped at the chance to read it. The first book in the Slayton Thriller series, The Midnight Man, is a perfectly pitched police procedural which worms its way under the reader’s skin.

After a traumatic and devastating year, DC Sarah Noble has decided to return to the force and get on with her life. Things will never be the same again but Sarah knows she can’t mope at home with her cat forever. The welcome the team offer her is less than enthusiastic and she’s handed only menial tasks, such as statement taking, to keep her busy. But when a big case hits Slayton, the disappearance of a teenage girl, Sarah unwittingly becomes embroiled in a case that brings back terrifying memories she’d rather forget. A decaying, spooky manor house, a local legend and the utterly terrifying Midnight Man…

The Midnight Man is a great start to what promises to be a fantastic series. A smart, well-written police procedural with a spooky edge, which this author does so well. Using local legends, a perfect eerie setting in a dilapidated old house and the unrelenting fear of your average fourteen year old, the author creates a chilling backdrop on which to set her haunting tale. Things certainly do go bump in the night at Blackhall Manor! Add to this a Detective Constable who, through no fault of her own, has suffered from crippling humiliation and heartbreak over the last year, only to return to her police colleagues for them to belittle and taunt her, and you have an intriguing page-turner.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Halloween on the horizon or not, The Midnight Man is the perfect pick if you’re looking for a story to give you chills. At the time of picking this book up I was looking for a police procedural that offered something a bit different. And The Midnight Man did exactly that. It gave me a different take, which I really appreciated and it ticked a lot of boxes for me. Mitchell is a superb writer who time and time again entertains her readers with excellent stories and fascinating characters. I look forward to finding out where the author will take the Slayton Thriller series next! Recommended.

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

The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell was published in the UK by Embla Books on 13th October 2021 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 | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post and International #1 Bestselling Author. Shortlisted by the International Thriller Awards for best ebook 2017 and the Killer Nashville Best Police Procedural 2018. Over 1.3 million books sold.

Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family in a village on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, she has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time.

Caroline writes psychological and crime thrillers. Her stand alone thriller Silent Victim reached No.1 in the Amazon charts in the UK, USA and Australia and was the winner of the Reader’s Favourite Awards in the psychological thriller category. It has been described as ‘brilliantly gripping and deliciously creepy’.

The first in her Amy Winter series, Truth And Lies, has been optioned for TV.

#BookReview: The Coven by Lizzie Fry @BooksSphere #TheCoven #damppebbles

Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Coven by Lizzie Fry. The Coven was published by Sphere Books in paperback on 2nd September 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free copy of The Coven which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Lizzie for sending me a finished copy.

As Halloween approaches many readers change their reading habits to include the witchy, the ghostly and the ghoulish. Not me. Halloween is great but the supernatural and the scary work all year long, right? Summer, bring it on. Christmas, the perfect time to scare yourself witless. I’ve realised though that I haven’t read many books featuring witches. So when I received a gifted copy of The Coven by Lizzie Fry, I moved it straight to the top of the TBR. And I’m so glad I did. The Coven is a superbly crafted, high-energy, international thriller that starts at a cracking pace and doesn’t let up until the final word.

After many years of living relatively peacefully side by side, the President of the US declares all witches should be voluntarily imprisoned for their safety and for others. The Sentinel are charged with rounding up those who don’t present themselves and they’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. But a good few thousand miles away, in the city of Exeter, nineteen year old Chloe Su is about to come into her powers. With the help of her father, a newly escaped crystal witch, and the Sentinel Agent who broke the witch free, Chloe takes the first step on a journey which will take her across international borders and into more danger than she ever thought possible…

Powerful, gutsy women lead the cast in a thrilling, non-stop race against time. Bloody marvellous! Fry has created a dark, edgy thriller in an alternative world where some of the female population are considered by non-magical folk as the scourge of the earth. All because the big guy in the White House says so! The men reign supreme. The divide between the genders – which includes the non-magical women who are labelled by the menfolk as ‘Goody’s’ – is vast. Fry has created such a strong divide between the genders that it made my blood boil at points. But in the best way possible. I have read other dystopian novels where the storyline centres around a similar male/female divide but Fry outshines them all with The Coven. I was angry for the women, I wanted justice and recognition for them. I wanted them to escape from the oppressive misogynistic regime they were forced under thanks to the Sentinel. It’s safe to say I was rooting for them 100%.

The Coven is a fast paced, thrill-ride of a story which doesn’t let up until the nail biting conclusion. Along the way we meet several interesting, well-written characters. Some I warmed to, others not so much (they’re kind of despicable, horrible human beings – but again, very well-written). My favourite character was Daniel, Chloe’s father, who is thrown into a world he knows nothing about with a ferocity that would leave others running for the hills. (I should mention at this point that not all male characters in the book are crazed zealots out to destroy womankind – only some of them!!) I also really liked Ethan who, despite being on the wrong side for so long, realises his mistake and does absolutely everything he can to make amends. My heart went out to Chloe who, at the age of nineteen, suddenly has the weight of the world on her shoulders. It’s a pretty hefty cross to bear when you’re only just starting to learn who, or what, you are yourself.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Fry’s feminist debut is a thrilling, beautifully intense tale which I struggled to tear myself away from. I was drawn into this alternate world from the get-go and what a ride it was! I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with these intelligent, fearless, fiery women and I look forward to seeing what the author has in store for us next. Fans of dystopian thrillers featuring strong female characters will adore this gripping read. Recommended.

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

The Coven by Lizzie Fry was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 2nd September 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 |

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Lizzie is the author of The Coven, a dystopian thriller for Sphere Books which asks readers to imagine a world in which witchcraft is real, passed down mother to daughter … and men will do absolutely everything they can to stop them.

A fan of such books as The Handmaid’s Tale and A Discovery of Witches, the idea came to Lizzie because she lives in Devon. It was one of the hardest hit areas in England during the witch hunts of the middle ages. There are many monuments to these murdered women in and around the South West. Exeter is officially the first and last place in the UK to hang a witch, which is why Lizzie chooses to kick off the story there.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou @maclehosepress @katyaellis_ #TheStoning #damppebbles

“A small town in outback Australia wakes to an appalling crime.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

Vivid, pacy and almost dangerously atmospheric, The Stoning is the first in a new series of outback noir featuring DS Manolis, himself an outsider, and a good man in a world gone to hell.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou. The Stoning is published in hardcover, audio and digital formats by MacLehose Press today (that’s Thursday 7th October 2021). I chose to read a free ARC of The Stoning which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Katya at MacLehose Press for sending me a finished copy.

Australian crime fiction. I bloody love it! It’s my new favourite obsession and I’m slowly filling my already very full bookshelves with some fantastic Australian writers. Jane Harper, Chris Hammer and Garry Disher are a few who immediately spring to mind. And now Peter Papathanasiou, who has produced an assured debut featuring a lead character I need more of in my life.

A small Australian town wakes to the horrifying news that a local teacher has been killed in the most brutal and shocking way, she was stoned to death. Local law enforcement is predominantly inept and botches the initial crime scene. Before long DS George Manolis is sent from the city to take control and push the investigation forward. After all, he knows the town like the back of his hand having spent his formative years in the community. But things have changed and it’s not the place he fondly remembers. Racial tensions run high, fingers are pointed and rumours are rife. Manolis needs to see beyond the residents relentless prejudices and find Molly’s killer before it’s too late…

The Stoning is an intriguing page-turner from the first word to the very last. Immersive, atmospheric and quite an eye-opener at times, this tense and unsettling read is an accomplished start to a series I am VERY excited about. DS George Manolis is a strong, likeable lead character who immediately comes up against a town falling apart at the seams. The divisions between the different groups – the indigenous people who have been pushed aside, the predominantly white townsfolk and the much hated immigration detention centre – create a simmering storyline which, at times, is a hard read, but is unapologetically gripping throughout.

Manolis is assisted by a stellar supporting cast. The much maligned Constable Sparrow, the only indigenous member of the police force, was a joy. Angry and unforgiving, yet he was the source of several more light hearted moments throughout the book which I really appreciated. Alongside Sparrow is Constable Kerr, the only female member of the team, who has her own cross to bear. I wanted to know more about Kerr and hope she, and Sparrow, feature in future books.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of well-plotted, intelligent small town mysteries then make sure you add The Stoning to your must read list. Tough going in places due to the subject matter and prejudices of the characters at times but 100% worth it. An accomplished and astute read which will leave you thinking long after the last page has turned. I’m looking forward to seeing where the author takes Manolis next. Recommended.

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

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou was published in the UK by MacLehose Press on 7th October 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 | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Peter PapathanasiouPeter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece in 1974 and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His debut book, a memoir, was published in 2019 as “Son of Mine” by Salt Publishing (UK) and “Little One” by Allen & Unwin (Australia). His debut novel, a work of crime fiction, was published in 2021 as “The Stoning” by MacLehose Press (UK) and Transit Lounge (Australia), and in 2022 by Polar Verlag (Germany). Peter’s writing has otherwise been published by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, ABC and SBS. He holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London; a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences from The Australian National University (ANU); and a Bachelor of Laws from ANU specialising in criminal law.

#BookReview: The Therapist by B.A. Paris @HQstories #TheTherapist #damppebbles

“TELL ME YOUR SECRETS…

When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, an exclusive gated community, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…

As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with the therapist who lived there before.

Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened. But no one wants to talk about it. And her neighbours are hiding something…

The million-copy Sunday Times bestselling author B A Paris returns to her heartland of gripping psychological suspense in this powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Therapist by B.A. Paris. The Therapist was published by HQ in paperback format on 22nd July 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Therapist which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sian at HQ for sending me a finished copy.

I’m embarrassed to admit that this is only the second book I’ve read by B.A. Paris. The first being the stunning Behind Closed Doors which I adored. However, after reading The Therapist, I am now more determined than ever to catch up on the author’s backlist because I’ve obviously been missing out on some really cracking reads! Reading The Therapist has confirmed what I already knew. B.A. Paris is a skilled writer and should be on everyone’s ‘must read’ list.

Alice has reluctantly moved out of the cottage she’s lived in all her life to The Circle, a secure gated community in the heart of London. It was a tough decision but the desire to move in with boyfriend, Leo, was the driving force. Plus, thanks to Leo’s careful negotiations and the sale of his own house, there’s no need for Alice to sell the cottage immediately. Alice doesn’t love the house in the Circle but she’s prepared to give it a go for the sake of their relationship. That is until she makes a devastating discovery. Alice becomes obsessed with finding out the details. She feels something is amiss with the house and the original investigation. Her neighbours refuse to discuss what happened. Why are they being so secretive? What horrors is The Circle hiding…?

The Therapist is a cleverly written tale of obsession and dark secrets. It’s packed full of tension and a delicious sense of impending doom, which I lapped up. Alice is a fascinating character who evoked many emotions within me throughout the course of the book. I will say that I found her to be quite frustrating at points and it was only towards the end of the book that I found myself rooting for her. But, and I’ve said this time and time again, I don’t have to like a character to enjoy the book. I want a character to evoke some sort of emotion within me (positive OR negative) and Alice did just that. The best characters are the ones who make you feel strongly in some way about them. I felt strongly about Alice and as a result I very much appreciated the author’s skilled writing.

The plot is well paced throughout and I was always intrigued about where the author was going to take Alice’s story next. B.A. Paris is well known for her killer twists and The Therapist has a cracking ending which escalates beautifully, becoming very dark very quickly which I, of course, appreciated.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Therapist is a well-written novel, full of delicious suspense which I enjoyed. Great characters as I’ve now come to expect from this author. The house in The Circle was, in parts, almost a character in itself which made a nice change as the creepy old house is usually exactly that. Old. And gothic. But this modern, refurbished abode made for an interesting setting. All in all, an enjoyable read which I recommend.

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

The Therapist by B.A. Paris was published in the UK by HQ on 22nd July 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 |

B. A. ParisB.A. Paris is the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown, Bring Me Back, The Dilemma and The Therapist. Having sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide, she is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller as well as a number one bestseller on Amazon and iBooks. Her novels have been translated into 40 languages, and Film and TV rights to Behind Closed Doors have been optioned. She is currently based in the UK.

#R3COMM3ND3D is back! #R3COMM3ND3D2021 #BookBloggers #Authors #Bookstagrammers #Publishedin2021 #MustReadBooks #booklove #booktwt #bookrecommendations #damppebbles

Hello bookish friends and a very happy Friday to you. I don’t have a review to share with you today but I do have some exciting news, which probably won’t come as a massive surprise if you’ve been following damppebbles over the last few years!

#R3COMM3ND3D IS BACK!

Woohoo! Because I flipping love it and, from the feedback I’ve had, you rather like it too! #R3COMM3ND3D (in the form of #R3COMM3ND3D2021) will start on 1st November! And, here’s the big news….#R3COMM3ND3D is FIVE years old this year 🥳. Reason enough to take part, I think, if you’ve never participated before!

If you’re new to damppebbles then allow me to explain what #R3COMM3ND3D is all about.

#R3COMM3ND3D is where I ask book bloggers, bookstagrammers and published authors to recommend three ‘must read’ books the rest of us should really make a point of picking up. Three titles you love and want to shout about. They don’t have to be your top three books of the year – just three books that have knocked your socks off and you think others will enjoy. Any author, any genre, traditionally, indie or self-published. Sounds easy, right? There is one catch – they must have been published in 2021 (and I will check!). There are a few other teeny tiny rules (such as reissues and special editions don’t count, authors CAN’T recommend their own books etc but we’ll gloss over that for now…).

The feature will run from 1st November until 30th December, excluding 24th, 25th and 26th December. All other dates are up for grabs. And if there is a specific date you would like then you only have to say and I will do my best to accommodate it. I’m more than happy to schedule your #R3COMM3ND3D for a date to coincide with a book release, a special promotion or an anniversary/blogiversary. And if you’re a published author, I always include information about your latest book in the post too (here’s an example).

There are 57 slots available and I hope to be able to fill them all. However, unlike in previous years, I have decided to put a definitive end date on the sign-up form. The form will close at midday (GMT) on Wednesday 1st December. If I haven’t been able to fill all 57 dates and you’ve selected a later date then I’m afraid I will bring your #R3COMM3ND3D forward and conclude the 2021 series early. Hopefully it won’t come to that. Hopefully all 57 dates will be snapped up 🤞

Tempted? Go on, you know you want to 😉. If you would like to take part then all you have to do is fill in the form below with as much information as possible. Really sell the books to us, make us want to read them too.

A final plea before I sign off. Please, please, please, please check the publication date of all formats on all three of your books before submitting your form. Often the hardback, audio and digital editions are published a full year before the paperback makes an appearance. I love #R3COMM3ND3D but it takes a long time to set each post up. If I then have to contact people and ask them to change one or more of their books, it takes even longer. I hope you understand why I’m asking you to be 100% sure this year.

I know the embedded form doesn’t work for everyone so if that’s you, here’s a helpful link (which shouldn’t cause any problems): https://forms.gle/UqFYws11pWdGHA7n8

I am super excited about this year’s #R3C and I can’t wait to see what you pick!

#BookReview | Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest by Aisling Fowler @HarperCollinsCh @TinaMories #Fireborn #damppebbles

“Set in the snowy northern forests of an imagined prehistoric world, Fireborn is the middle-grade debut of the decade. At turns exciting, funny and heart wrenchingly sad, it marks the introduction of an unstoppable new voice in children’s storytelling.

Twelve has spoken the Pledge and now she is a Huntling. She has given up her name to train in the art of fighting monsters and keeping the peace, and she won’t get to choose a new one until she has earned it.

But when the Lodge’s walls are breached for the first time, and a little girl is taken, Twelve is the only one interested in going after a child . . .

Teaming up with Dog, the Stone Guardian of the Lodge, Twelve ends up on an epic adventure that will change her life, her name – and her entire world.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest by Aisling Fowler. Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest is published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in hardcover, audio and digital formats today (that’s Thursday 30th September 2021). I chose to read and review a free ARC of Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Tina at HarperCollins Children’s Books for sending me a proof copy.

Well, I say ‘me’ but if I’m being truthful, Tina didn’t send a copy to me. She sent it to my 10 year old daughter who saw the book on my Twitter feed and fell in love. She was so excited to read it. It went to school with her, she showed it to her class and told them all about Twelve. It was a complete and utter joy to see how much she enjoyed reading this book. So I had to give it a read myself! I’ll share my thoughts in a tick but first of all, here’s what G thought…

Fireborn is a brilliant book about persevering, courage and friendship. I love how the Frozen Forest challenges Twelve because it keeps on changing and moving around her. The book had a lot of twists and turns. My favourite character is Widge, Twelve’s pet squirrel because he’s really cute, friendly and loyal. The book made me feel excited and nervous for Twelve. I love how there are so many flashbacks from Twelve’s life before she joined the Hunting Lodge. It made me feel as though I knew Twelve really well. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy magical fantasy. I really enjoyed Fireborn by Aisling Fowler and hope for more adventures with Twelve and her friends soon!

What a rip-roaring adventure the author has created for her wonderful lead character! There is so much to love about Fireborn. First of all, it’s perfectly pitched at its young audience with so many thrills and spills along the way. The author’s world building hit all the right notes providing stunning spectacles of magic and fantasy which even I, as a more mature reader *ahem*, found exciting and thoroughly engaging. I couldn’t help but like Twelve. She’s a renegade, a fighter and she’ll do what she thinks is right – no matter what the consequences. I loved her fire. Driven by the loss of her family and a thirst for revenge, she’s exactly the kind of hero I wanted to read about as a kid.

I really enjoyed how the author paired Twelve with characters who were her opposite and then dropped them into scenarios where their individual strengths shone. Enabling the characters to see the best in their counterparts. I enjoyed watching Twelve slowly thaw towards the other characters in the book. Realising over time that the people she disliked the most could, in fact, become friends. There are some truly wonderful twists along the way which I didn’t see coming. Twelve, alongside Dog, the magical, invincible guardian of the Hunting Lodge meet a host of well-drawn magical creatures in the forest who are out to put an end to their quest.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest is an exciting, tension filled read which my daughter and I both loved. This thrilling middle grade fantasy whisks its readers away to another world, full of magical creatures and dark delights. Wonderful characters, brilliant twists and some very impressive world building with a strong female lead at the helm. Absolutely marvellous and we can’t wait to catch up with Twelve again soon 🔥. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest by Aisling Fowler was published in the UK by HarperCollins Children’s Books on 30th September 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 | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

ⓒ Claire Bradshaw

Aisling wishes that she had grown up in a magical, mountainous kingdom, but was actually raised in Surrey on a diet of books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her early ‘adventure’ stories involved surprisingly little action and her first novel (3 pages long) was politely declined by publishers at age 11. After earning a BSc in Biology and working as a support worker and then a nurse, the idea for her debut novel, Fireborn, came to her as she moved back and forth between London and the US. Now based in Hackney, when she is not reading or writing, Aisling loves cooking and plotting adventures (for herself as well as her fictional characters). Fireborn will be published by HarperCollins in 2021.

#BookReview: Come With Me by Ronald Malfi @TitanBooks @Sarah_Mather_15 #ComeWithMe #damppebbles

“Aaron Decker’s life changes one December morning when his wife Allison is killed. Haunted by her absence—and her ghost—Aaron goes through her belongings, where he finds a receipt for a motel room in another part of the country. Piloted by grief and an increasing sense of curiosity, Aaron embarks on a journey to discover what Allison had been doing in the weeks prior to her death.

Yet Aaron is unprepared to discover the dark secrets Allison kept, the death and horror that make up the tapestry of her hidden life. And with each dark secret revealed, Aaron becomes more and more consumed by his obsession to learn the terrifying truth about the woman who had been his wife, even if it puts his own life at risk.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Come With Me by Ronald Malfi. Come With Me was published by Titan Books on 20th July 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Come With Me which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sarah at Titan Books for sending me a digital copy.

I saw this book mentioned several times on social media and was instantly intrigued. Then a well respected blogger friend whose opinion I really trust said it was a BRILLIANT novel – creepy cool and hugely evocative (thanks Liz!). I didn’t need any more encouragement. That was all it took. I knew I had to read Come With Me.

Aaron Decker waves goodbye to his wife one morning never to see her alive again. Grief consumes him. He struggles to go on without Allison, the love of his life. But he knows he must move forward. Going through her belongings, he discovers a receipt for a motel miles away from home. Discovering what Allison was doing in a different part of the country whilst he, himself, was away from home becomes his one focus. But what Aaron discovers lifts the lid on Allison’s life, revealing shocking things he never knew about the woman he loved and putting him in terrible danger…

I loved Come With Me and read it in two sittings. Malfi’s writing and characters really grabbed my attention and I was loathe to put the book down for any length of time. It’s a beautifully written, haunting mystery which gave me chills. I couldn’t get enough of it. Helped by the fact that I may have fallen a little bit in love with Aaron who is the most compelling character I’ve come across in a long time. Aaron’s battle against his own grief and his quest to discover Allison’s secrets ensured I was glued to the book from start to finish. And every new discovery was followed by a sharp intake of breath. Fully immersive and completely bewitching.

Aaron’s grief is palpable – a living, breathing thing. As realisation hits, as Aaron discovers that perhaps he didn’t know his wife as well as he thought, that she was actively keeping devastating secrets from him, my heart broke for a character I had come to care about. Aaron’s travels take him across the country where he meets a strong cast of supporting characters, all of whom were fully formed and memorable, adding something significant to this unforgettable story.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Come With Me is an emotional, edgy and dark read which this reader devoured with glee. It ticked so many boxes for me and I struggled to be parted from it, needing to find out how things would turn out for Aaron. As for the ending, it blew my mind and made a book I was really enjoying hit new heady heights. A memorable story the reader can truly invest in. Perfectly pitched and expertly written. Mr Malfi, you have a new fan. Highly recommended.

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

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi was published in the UK by Titan Books on 20th July 2021 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 |

Ronald Damien MalfiRonald Malfi is the award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and his novel Floating Staircase was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland and tweets at @RonaldMalfi

#BookReview: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian @HarvillSecker #NeverSawMeComing #damppebbles

“Meet Chloe. First-year student, ordinary, legging-wearing, girl next door…and highly intelligent diagnosed psychopath. Her hobbies include yogalates, parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman.

Chloe is part of a secret clinical study of young psychopaths run by the university’s Psychology Department. Most psychopaths aren’t criminals, but when a string of murders on campus causes upheaval, Chloe’s private vendetta is sidelined. Partnered with fellow study participants she can’t trust – and distracted by typical university life – Chloe has to walk the line between hunter and prey.

Never Saw Me coming is a sharp, electrifying and hugely entertaining thriller with an antiheroine who will work her manipulative magic on you.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian. Never Saw Me Coming was published by Harvill Secker on 9th September 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Never Saw Me Coming but that has in no way influenced my review.

A college with a secret group of psychopaths stalking the grounds. Yes please! I couldn’t resist the pull of this book. I tried for the sake of my TBR. The shelves are bowing under the weight of my physical copies and the Kindle screams at me every time I switch it on. But realistically, what harm could one more book do? Hmmm? Particularly as Never Saw Me Coming sounded SO GOOD!

Chloe Sevre is a first year student at John Adams University and a diagnosed psychopath. That’s OK though, she’s not the only one. In fact, she’s part of a secret study which counsels psychopaths and teaches them how to integrate seamlessly into society. After all, not all psychopaths are crazed killers! Chloe, however, has a personal vendetta which she must settle and the only way to do that is to destroy the person who wronged her. Everything was going to plan until a murder is reported on campus. Followed by a second. Someone is killing students. Putting her own plans to one side, Chloe joins forces with other students in the psychopath programme to find the killer. But is the killer a lot closer than they think…

Huge amounts of fun and highly entertaining. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and thoroughly enjoyed Never Saw Me Coming. Chloe is a bad-ass, kick-ass antihero and I became fully invested in her quickly. When someone starts killing off students, who do you blame? The psychopaths. But what if the psychopaths are the ones hunting the killer instead? And exactly how far can Chloe trust the other members of the study? They’re adept at cheating, they know how to lie. They have no empathy, no conscience. It could be any of them really! I loved the concept of the book and I loved how well it’s all put together. Alongside Chloe are Charles and Andre, who are also part of the study. Charles is more practiced at hiding his true self, whilst Andre isn’t who he says he is. I really liked both of these characters. Together with Chloe they’re a force to be reckoned with! Although the reader can never truly trust them…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Never Saw Me Coming is a highly readable, very enjoyable novel which left me with a big ol’ smile on my face. It’s exactly the kind of book I love to read – a different and imaginative spin on the norm – and I loved the time I spent with Chloe & Co. This campus based, character-driven mystery was a pleasure to read and I heartily recommend it to those looking for something original and refreshing. Recommended

I chose to read and review Never Saw Me Coming. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian was published in the UK by Harvill Secker on 9th September 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Vera KurianVera Kurian is a writer and psychologist living in Washington, DC. Her fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, the Pinch, and Southern California Review. You can find her online at verakurian.com or @vera_kurian on Twitter.