#BookReview: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson @BloomsburyRaven #NeverHaveIEver #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (7/15)

never have I ever

“It starts as a game at a book group one night. Never Have I Ever… done something I shouldn’t.

But Amy Whey has done something she shouldn’t. And Roux, the glamorous newcomer to Amy’s suburban neighbourhood, knows exactly what that is.

Roux promises she will go away – if Amy plays by her rules.

But Amy isn’t prepared to lose everything. She’s going to fight back, and in this escalating game of cat and mouse, there can be only one winner.”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my review of Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson. Never Have I Ever was published on 8th August 2019 by Raven Books and is available in hardcover, audio and ebook formats. I chose Never Have I Ever as my seventh #15BooksofSummer challenge read and received a free eARC of this book but that has in no way influenced my review.

It’s not often I read a ‘teaser’ or sample of a book. I prefer to read the entire thing from start to finish, at my own (some would say, very slow) pace. So when a teaser of Never Have I Ever appeared on NetGalley I planned to walk on by. But that didn’t actually happen. I found myself drawn to this book so I broke the habit of a lifetime and downloaded the first chapter. Looking for something to kill an hour one day in between moving the kids from one after school activity to another, I started to read my short snippet of Never Have I Ever. I was instantly drawn into the world of these women with the interloper in their midst. The exotic Roux who usurped the mumsy book club leader, Charlotte, and made herself very much at home in Amy’s basement having recently moved into the local rental. Roux instantly ruffles a number of feathers, flatters a number of the more timid women and makes her mark on the group. But as the alcohol flows some of their most closely guarded secrets are revealed, all for the momentary thrill of shocking their peers. A game of ‘never have I ever’ takes a more sinister twist and Amy is left wondering exactly what mysterious Roux knows about her past. And that’s where the first chapter ended (!) and I was left hankering after the rest of the story. Thankfully my NetGalley request was approved shortly after that so I didn’t have to wait *too* long for the rest of Roux and Amy’s story!

And what a story it is! This is a wonderful multi-layered book and I was completely drawn in to the lives of the characters. I loved Amy and her sass. I desperately wanted her to succeed in her plan to win the game and keep her dark past hidden from her family and maintain the life she had built for herself. But I also adored Roux who is darkness and wickedness personified. Good..ish versus evil. The battle is well and truly ON in Never Have I Ever and I savoured every last minute of it. This is an engrossing book with a brilliant plot but the characters are everything. If you don’t feel invested in Amy’s plight by the end of the book then I’m afraid you’ve done it all wrong.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes! But brace yourself for the unexpected. I don’t want to say anything else about the plot as I already feel I’ve said too much. However, the ending is perfect. I couldn’t work out how the author was going to finish this Battle Royale between these two brilliant adversaries but Jackson does it with absolute aplomb. One of the most fascinating psychological suspense novels I have read in a long time. Amy and Roux have made themselves at home in my memory and I don’t think they’ll be moving out anytime soon.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Never Have I Ever. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson was published in the UK by Raven Books on 8th August 2019 and is available in hardcover, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links (they’re starred*) which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk* | amazon.com | Waterstones* | BookDepository* | Goodreads |

15 books of summer

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson’s newest book, Never Have I Ever, will launch in July of 2019. You can check out her previous eight novels and other work here. Joshilyn’s books have been translated into a dozen languages, have won SIBA’s Novel of the Year award, have three times been #1 Book Sense Pick, have twice won Georgia Author of the Year awards, have three times been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, and have been a finalist for the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction.

A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of both her own novels and the books of other writers; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, won three Earphones awards, made the 2012 Audible All-Star list for highest listener ranks/reviews, and garnered three Listen Up awards from Publisher’s Weekly.

She serves on the board of Reforming Arts, a nonprofit that runs education-in-prison and reentry programs. Reforming Arts fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills, encouraging students to build livable lives both during and post-incarceration. Through this organization, Joshilyn has taught creative writing, composition, and literature inside Georgia’s maximum security facility for women.

Joshilyn learned to scuba-dive in order to write Never Have I Ever, and now she and her husband Scott are both avid divers. They live in Decatur, Georgia with their two kids, two entitled cats, and a modestly-sized dog.

Author photo and biog © https://www.joshilynjackson.com/

#BookReview: Watching Edie by Camilla Way @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #WatchingEdie

watching edie.jpg“THERE ARE SOME FRIENDS YOU’LL NEVER FORGET…
NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY

BEFORE
Edie is the friend that Heather has always craved. But one night, it goes terrifyingly wrong. And what started as an innocent friendship ends in two lives being destroyed.

AFTER
Sixteen years later, Edie is still rebuilding her life. But Heather isn’t ready to let her forget so easily. It’s no coincidence that she shows up when Edie needs her most.

NOW
Edie or Heather?
Heather or Edie?

Someone has to pay for what happened, but who will it be?”

I remember when this book was first published and how much love there was for it.  It was one of those books where everyone was talking about it.  I was even asked by a few blogger friends if I had read it.  The answer of course was I hadn’t but oh boy, did I want to!  I received a free copy of Watching Edie from the publisher which has in no way influenced my review.

Watching Edie is a tale of friendship and obsession which I found totally riveting.  Edie was one of the popular girls at school; beautiful, rebellious and everything Heather wanted to be.  So imagine Heather’s surprise when Edie starts talking to her.  After all, Heather doesn’t consider herself to be special in any way.  The girls strike up a friendship which is probably a little more one-sided than it should be.  But something terrible happens and the girls part ways under a dark cloud.  Several years later Edie is still trying to quieten the demons from her past so when someone knocks on her door the last person she expects it to be is Heather.  Heather seems to have not changed, does not mention their past and is keen to revive their childhood friendship.  But Edie is wary.  Something just doesn’t feel right and she would prefer to avoid Heather, and memories of their past, at all costs…

This is a great story and I enjoyed reading Watching Edie.  I found myself taking sides (which probably makes me a terrible person) and I wanted Heather to just leave Edie alone and just let her get on with her life.  The reader doesn’t discover until near the end of the book what catastrophic thing happened to the characters and the cause of Edie’s shock at seeing Heather again.  The build-up to the reveal is done so very well with a palpable sense of unease from the start of the book to the end.  My mind was creating all kinds of scenarios and I frequently asked myself what could have happened to these two characters.  By the end, I was absolutely kicking myself.

The story is told in ‘Before’ and ‘After’ chapters.  It was interesting how we only hear from Heather in the ‘Before’ and Edie in the ‘After’ chapters giving the reader a great insight into both of these characters lives, thoughts and feelings.  Heather’s obsession with Edie made my skin crawl at times but I guess many of us can relate to that.  Wanting the popular girls in school to be our friends, to be accepted (or maybe that’s just me!).  Despite not liking Heather I really did sympathise with her after I had met her mother.  What a horrible woman!

Would I recommend this book?  I would, particularly if you like a character-driven psychological thriller.  There are characters to love and hate in this novel.  The ending was shocking and I’m glad the author took the story in the direction she did.  It’s a compelling read and I will make a point of reading more from Camilla Way in the future.

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

Watching Edie by Camilla Way was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 6th April 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, ebook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

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camilla way.jpgCamilla Way was born in Greenwich, south-east London, and studied Modern English and French Literature at the University of Glamorgan. Her father was the poet and author Peter Way. Formerly Associate Editor of the teenage girls’ magazine Bliss, she is currently an editor and writer on the men’s style magazine Arena. Having lived in Cardiff, Bristol, Bath and Clerkenwell, she now lives in south-east London.

Author Links: Twitter|

#BlogTour | #BookReview: In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards (@mredwards) @AmazonPub @midaspr #InHerShadow

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“Isabel’s life seemed perfect. Successful business, beautiful house, adoring husband. And then she was dead.

For four years Jessica has never doubted that her sister Isabel’s death was an accident. But when Jessica’s young daughter seems to know long-forgotten details about her aunt’s past, Jessica can’t shake the feeling that there’s a more sinister truth behind the tragedy.

As Jessica unearths disturbing revelations about her sister, and about the people she loved and trusted most, it becomes clear Isabel’s life was less than perfect and that Jessica’s might also be at risk.

Did someone murder Isabel? Are they now after Jessica and her family? The key seems to lie in the hands of a child. Can Isabel reveal the truth from beyond the grave, or is the answer closer to home?”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the In Her Shadow blog tour. In Her Shadow is the latest release from bestselling author, Mark Edwards, and is set to be published by Thomas & Mercer later this week on 4th October 2018.

When Mark Edwards publishes a book, I read it. It’s that simple really. He’s an author whose writing I am happy to return to again and again. To prove my point, here are my reviews of Mark’s previous books; Follow You Home, The Devil’s Work, The Lucky Ones and The Retreat. I’ve also read ‘The Magpies’ which started it all for me a few years back. All wonderful, immersive pieces of fiction and highly recommended.

Making a start on Mark Edwards’s latest book is a strangely nerve-wracking experience for me. I have loved everything I have read by this author so far. Will this be the first book to disappoint? Will I love it as much as the others? Well, the answer to those two questions is that it did NOT disappoint but I maybe didn’t love it as much as his previous releases. Let me explain. Once again, Edwards has penned a highly readable, family focussed psychological thriller. What he does best in my opinion. However, this book has an overarching paranormal element to it, and the inclusion of any kind of paranormal ‘activity’ in a novel tends to leave this reader feeling cold. But that’s me. Your feelings on the matter may be completely different to mine and that, I find, is one of the joys of reading, and books in general. Saying that, the paranormal elements to the story were extremely well done and at points I felt shivers run down my spine – particularly in the first half of the book. Little Olivia really did freak me out.

Edwards really knows how to write a fully formed, living, breathing character. I was drawn to Jessica and her deceased sister, Isabel. In fact, I would go as far as saying Isabel was my favourite character in the book. There are wonderful flashback sections throughout so what I’m saying isn’t completely crazy (read the blurb if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). I loved her feistiness, her boundless self-confidence and her ambition. Also her strong sense of right and wrong. Jessica very much pales in her sister’s shadow. Olivia was also a firm favourite, despite the fact she did send shivers down my spine at points. I couldn’t get over how authentic Edwards made her voice.

Would I recommend this book? I would but why recommend one when you can recommend them all! I felt there was a stronger lean towards the ‘women’s fiction’ genre in In Her Shadow which I have nothing against but it’s really NOT my thing. It’s also a little sexy which again, I could have done without. However, Mark Edwards is a supremely talented writer and if you haven’t read any of his books yet then we need to have serious words. A strong family driven thriller which I enjoyed. Recommended.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of In Her Shadow. The above review is my own honest unbiased opinion.

In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 4th October 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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EDWARDS 7 TS 28

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people and is inspired by writers such as Stephen King, Ira Levin, Ruth Rendell and Linwood Barclay.

His first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on Amazon UK and has sold 300,000 copies to date. This was followed by What You Wish For (2014), Because She Loves Me (2014; also a No.1 bestseller in the UK) and Follow You Home(2015).

He also co-writes with Louise Voss. Their novels are: Killing Cupid (2011); Catch Your Death(2011); All Fall Down (2012); Forward Slash and a series featuring Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon, starting with From the Cradle (2014) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). Read more about Voss & Edwards.

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and starting writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing. He now writes full-time and lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat, Billie, who was named after an actress from Doctor Who.

When he’s not writing or looking after children, Mark reads a lot, devours TV box sets and spends far too much time on Twitter and Facebook, where he loves chatting with readers. He also wishes he had more time to do the activity he loves most: karaoke.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: After He Died by Michael J. Malone (@michaelJmalone1) @OrendaBooks #AfterHeDied

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“You need to know who your husband really was…

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son, Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…

When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought they knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.

Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the After He Died blog tour. After He Died is the latest release from one of my favourite authors, Michael J. Malone and is currently available in eBook format with the Orenda Books paperback publishing later this week on Thursday 20th September 2018.

As soon as I hear Michael J. Malone has a new book coming out, I want a copy! For those of you who are new to damppebbles, Malone’s first Orenda release, A Suitable Lie absolutely blew my socks off (and then some!) back in 2016. It was my book of the year and I still, to this day, recommend it to EVERYONE! Here’s my review if you missed it the first time, and if you haven’t purchased a copy yet, then you MUST! I’m also a massive fan of Malone’s self-published gritty Scottish crime series featuring the ‘rough-around-the-edges’ DI, Ray McBain. Another must read if you haven’t already discovered this series yet. So new Michael J. Malone titles immediately kick the book craving into gear, particularly those published by Orenda Books. I love a gritty police procedural like the McBain series, they’re my bread and butter and Malone excels at writing them. But his novels published via Orenda Books are very different; they’re domestic noir thrillers that set a benchmark so high, others can only dream of achieving what he does. They’re chock full of heart, with real living, breathing characters. And more often than not, they take my breath away. They have so much soul, there’s so much emotion between the pages and the unease the reader feels is really quite glorious.

After He Died is another top-notch domestic thriller from the twisted mind and pen of Michael J. Malone. Another page-turner full of secrets and lies; you never know what to believe! The unease I felt whilst reading was palpable and I very much enjoyed every moment I spent in Paula and Cara’s company. Did I like them? Well…I didn’t hate them. I found myself strongly disliking Thomas from quite early on which was rather unfair of me as he is the ‘he’ who has died. I can’t say I liked Paula or Cara but I was definitely on their side, wanting to solve the mystery, urging them on to discover the truth.

Would I recommend this book? I would. If you want a surefire, guaranteed good read then Michael J. Malone’s After He Died is the book for you. Or any other of Malone’s books actually, they’re all wonderful compulsive reads that I’ve struggled to put down. Malone knows how to write a character; whether it’s someone to love or someone to hate, eliciting that emotion is what is all about and Malone does that with ease and lashings of style. After He Died is bulging with secrets, it has a wonderfully Scottish edge that will appeal to many readers – you feel as though you’re reading something very special. Recommended.

Four stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of After He Died. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

After He Died by Michael J. Malone was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 20th September 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Michael Malone Photo

Michael J Malone is the author of over 200 published poems, two poetry collections, six novels, countless articles and one work of non-fiction.

Formerly a Faber and Faber Regional Sales Manager (Scotland and North England), he has judged and critiqued countless poetry, short story and novel competitions for a variety of organisations, and for a number of years was the Scottish correspondent for Writers’ Forum.

Michael is an experienced workshop leader/ creative writing lecturer to writers’ groups, schools and colleges as well as a personal coach and mentor. He has a Certificate in Life Coaching and studied as a facilitator with The Pacific Institute.

As a freelance editor he has edited and mentored writers in a variety of genres and for traditionally published as well as self-published authors.

He is a regular speaker and chair at book festivals throughout the UK– including Aye Write, Bloody Scotland, Crimefest and Wigtown.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin (@JackieMBaldwin1) @KillerReads @LoveBooksGroup #PerfectDead

Perfect Dead - high-res - Copy (1).jpg“Each murder brings him one step closer to the perfect death.

Ex-priest, DI Farrell is called on to investigate a gruesome death in rural Scotland. All evidence points to suicide, except for one loose end: every light in the cottage was switched off. Why would he kill himself in the dark?

The question sparks a murder investigation that leads to the mysterious Ivy House, home of ‘The Collective,’ a sinister commune of artists who will do anything to keep their twisted secrets hidden.

And when the remains of a young girl are uncovered on a barren stretch of coastline, Farrell realises that there is something rotten in this tight-knit community. Now he must track down a ruthless killer before another person dies, this time much closer to home…”

I am thrilled to be one of two blogs kicking off the Perfect Dead blog tour today.  Perfect Dead is the second book in the DI Frank Farrell series written by Jackie Baldwin and it’s published by Killer Reads in eBook TODAY!  A very happy publication day to Jackie and the Killer Reads team.

I was a huge fan of Baldwin’s first DI Farrell book, Dead Man’s Prayer.  So much so, that it featured on my books of 2016 list.  Which means that I’ve been waiting for the release of Perfect Dead and Frank’s second outing with bated breath.  For those new to this series our protagonist is DI Frank Farrell, an ex-priest turned Detective Inspector in the Dumfries and Galloway area of Scotland.  Frank is conflicted as he doesn’t really know where his heart truly lies; is he destined to hunt the seedy criminals and lowlifes of the lowland or does he have a much higher, spiritual calling?  What I love most about Frank Farrell is that he is unlike any of the other detectives I tend to read about.  They are more often than not addiction driven, tortured souls but Frank, with his past in the Church, isn’t.  He fascinates me.

I was also delighted to see DC Mhairi McLeod make a welcome return to proceedings.  Her intelligent insight and her wonderfully feisty attitude really added to the story for me this time around.  I liked her character in the first book but I felt she really came to life in Perfect Dead, often leaving DI Farrell in the shadows.

When Frank and Mhairi are called to a suicide in Kirkcudbright something just doesn’t feel right.  Gut instinct and a good investigative brain mean that before long they are treating the artist’s death as suspicious.  The investigation leads to ‘The Collective’s door, a group of uninhibited ‘invite only’ artists who keep themselves to themselves and their secrets well and truly hidden.  Frank’s suspicious suicide was once part of ‘The Collective’ flock, so it’s only natural that he starts asking questions.  But that’s only the beginning.  When the remains of a young woman, missing for several years is discovered nearby, all roads lead to ‘The Collective’.

I really enjoyed how there were several plot threads intricately woven throughout the story and the way the author managed to keep the investigations separate, to a point.  Parts of the story I found a little predictable but then I just can’t help playing amateur detective whilst reading detective fiction (any fiction!).  I was looking for clues from the moment I started to read which is very normal for me.  It certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.  Although I had guessed ‘whodunit’ I really did love the conclusion of Perfect Dead.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  I love how Jackie Baldwin writes and her characters are wonderfully unique.  I just can’t help myself when it comes to DI Frank Farrell, there’s something so appealing about him that I will read this series until the author decides she has had enough!  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the team in action again and I can’t wait to see what Baldwin has in store for us next.  A delightfully intricate and enjoyable novel.

Four out of five stars.

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

Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 15th June 2018 and is available in eBook format, with the paperback to follow in August (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Jackie_02_by_Kim_AyresJackie Baldwin is a Scottish crime writer. Her debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer, was published by Killer Reads, Harper Collins on 2nd September 2016. The second in the series, Perfect Dead was published on 15th June 2018. For most of her working life, she has been a solicitor specialising in Family and Criminal Law. However, she now practices in Dumfries as a hypnotherapist which is where her novels are set. Married, with two grown-up children, she has filled her empty nest with Golden Retrievers. She can often be found in a forest walking the dogs, covered in mud and with twigs in her hair.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

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

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“What if your daughter becomes your enemy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

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

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

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

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

#BlogTour | #BookReview: My Little Eye by Stephanie Marland (@crimethrillgirl) @TrapezeBooks @orion_crime #MyLittleEye

my little eye.jpg“KISS THE GIRLS
A young woman is found dead in her bedroom surrounded by rose petals – the latest victim of ‘The Lover’. Struggling under the weight of an internal investigation, DI Dominic Bell is no closer to discovering the identity of the killer and time is running out.

AND MAKE THEM DIE…
As the murders escalate, Clementine Starke joins an online true crime group determined to take justice in their own hands – to catch the killer before the police. Hiding a dark secret, she takes greater risks to find new evidence and infiltrate the group.

As Starke and Bell get closer to cracking the case neither of them realise they’re being watched. The killer is closer to them than they think, and he has his next victim – Clementine – firmly in his sights.”

I am thrilled to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the My Little Eye blog tour which I share with one of my favourite book blogs, Bibliophile Book Club.  My Little Eye is the first book in the Starke and Bell series written by Stephanie Marland.  Sshhh, don’t tell anyone but Stephanie Marland is actually a pen name for another favourite of mine (that’s author AND blogger), Steph Broadribb!  Steph writes the breathtakingly good Lori Anderson series, published by Orenda Books.  Writing as Stephanie Marland her latest series, featuring Clementine Starke and Dominic Bell, is published by the fabulous folk at Trapeze Books.  Of all the books in all the world, this one was pretty much at the top of my MUST READ list.

I’ve been SO excited about getting around to reading My Little Eye, and I really enjoyed it.  Knowing that this author (in her other guise) writes one of my very favourite crime series, I was looking forward to seeing how she would write these new characters, the more ‘local’ setting (for us Brits!) and exactly how different it would be to her very distinct Lori Anderson series.  And it was just that; very very different.  Great different.  You can’t really compare the two but they’re both as equally marvellous as each other.

We meet Clementine Starke, a PhD student in psychology, specifically human-computer interaction.  Yeah, I scratched my head at that too.  Basically, Clementine likes to study how we present ourselves online; the lies we tell, the *cough* truths we omit.  The reader soon discovers that Clementine Starke has other dark secrets as well which Marland manages to adeptly tease us with as the story progresses.  Starke is part of a London-based forum of true crime addicts.  True crime addicts who believe the police are incompetent, corrupt and generally inept.  True crime addicts who are out to solve a murder, to beat the police in cracking the case.  And oh boy, what a case they have chosen to crack!  The Lover is London’s latest serial killer.  When a second victim is found, Starke’s group closes rank and start their own investigation.  DI Dominic Bell is the lead detective tasked with apprehending The Lover.  Bell is struggling with his own demons though, including an Internal Affairs investigation into his last case.  Can Bell piece the clues together before it’s too late and The Lover takes another victim?  How far will Starke go before she realises she’s in too deep…?

I absolutely loved Starke and I loved Bell.  I’m fascinated to see where Marland is going to take the second book as, although it sounds from the blurb like Bell and Starke are a team, they really aren’t and only come to meet towards the end of the book.  He is a senior police officer, she is a PhD student who prefers to spend time inside her flat in her own company.

I did see where the plot was heading but I didn’t really care as I was enjoying the book so much.  I love a serial killer thriller (more than any other crime thriller, really) and it was great to have what felt like a modern-day amateur sleuth take on the big guys, the serial killers.  The addition of a competent but distracted detective worked an absolute treat for me and I’m really excited to read the next instalment in this series for that reason.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  It’s a twisty, modern day take on a serial killer thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Fast-paced and addictive, I’m left wanting more.  They’re an unlikely duo but oh my gosh, they work.  I just hope they don’t do something daft like fall in love…*shudder*

And for the record, Radiohead aren’t ‘old’.

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

My Little Eye by Stephanie Marland was published in the UK by Trapeze Books | Orion Publishing on 5th April 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

stephanie marland.jpgStephanie Marland has worked in the University sector for over ten years and published research on how people interact and learn together in virtual environments online. She’s an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and an avid reader of all things crime fiction, blogging about books at http://www.crimethrillergirl.com. Steph also writes the Lori Anderson action thriller series (as Steph Broadribb) for Orenda Books, the first book Deep Down Dead is out now.

Author Links:Crime Thriller Girl | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown (@IsabelAshdown) @TrapezeBooks

little sister.jpg“After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited. With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home.

Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart.

Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before?”

I’ve been wanting to read Little Sister since its release in eBook earlier this year.  Those clever PR types did a stonking job of ramping up my FOMO* by handing out sampler copies over on NetGalley.  Not the full book, you understand, just a short taster of what you could get if you were lucky enough to receive a copy.  And readers were buzzing!  A large proportion of the bloggers who I completely adore and (obviously) whose opinions I 100% trust, loved this book.  So I was rather pleased to get my mitts on a full, start to finish, prologue to epilogue copy.  Unfortunately, my blog tour reads have taken all of my spare time since then so I haven’t been able to make a start on this highly anticipated novel….until now!  Thankfully, due to the August holiday lull, I have managed to read Little Sister, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I always become a little more excited about a book if, after reading the prologue, I have a case of the chills.  The prologue of Little Sister gave me goosebumps and nearly broke my heart, all in one.

We are introduced to estranged sisters, Emily and Jessica, who meet for the first time in years at their mother’s funeral.  Jessica is the younger sister, sent away several years ago by her family for an unforgivable incident which brought shame upon her strict Catholic family.  Emily has since carved a wonderful home life for herself with a new baby, Daisy, a loving partner, James and a teenage stepdaughter, Chloe on the peaceful Isle of Wight. The reunion between the sisters is a positive one and before long Jess has moved in with Emily’s family as Daisy’s nanny, enabling Emily to return to work.  But on New Year’s Eve, whilst Emily and James are out enjoying themselves, Daisy is taken right from underneath Jess’s nose.  Slowly and surely the family begin to unravel, suspicions run high and secrets are the mainstay of this once-loving family.  Was Emily right to trust Jess?  And will Daisy be found before it’s too late…?

This is one of those novels where you can never be sure who to trust, who is keeping a monumental secret hidden within and exactly where the story will take you.  Pure fictional bliss, in other words!  I immediately disliked Jess and was incredibly wary of her.  I couldn’t understand why this sensible, practical new mum had decided her estranged sister was the right person to be in charge of her young baby.  Purely convinced of the fact by a simple, quick lie from Jessica about being a nanny in Canada whilst  travelling!  But as this twisty story progressed, my allegiance changed.  I began to dislike Emily and warm a lot more to Jessica.  Strange things were happening.  As the author laid out her character’s lives, new ‘clues’ became unearthed, points I hadn’t taken into consideration before suddenly became…well, significant.

The story is told from three POVs; Emily, Jess and a third narrator who shall remain nameless for the sake of this review (and to avoid spoilers).  There are glimpses into the past and the terrible incident which drove Jess away from her family, told from Jessica’s side and also from Emily’s.  These flashbacks give the reader a much clearer understanding of the shaky foundation this sisterly bond was built upon and provides the reader with a greater insight into these two women.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s twisty, emotional and a darn good tale of sisterly love gone ‘off track’.  I loved the uncovering of the secrets, the clues left along the way and the gradual unravelling of one of the key characters.  I enjoyed Ashdown’s writing style but at times was longing for a little more dialogue (but that’s just me!). Intricate, seamless and wonderfully intense.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Four out of five stars.

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

*FOMO = Fear of Missing Out

Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

 

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Author image and bio (c) isabelashdown.com

Isabel’s writing career was first launched when she won the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition in 2008, with judges Fay Weldon, Michael Ridpath and the late Sir John Mortimer describing her work as ‘magnificent.’  The completed novel, Glasshopper (Myriad Editions), went on to be named among the Best Books of 2009 by both the Observer and the London Evening Standard.  Her latest novel, Little Sister, is out with Trapeze (Orion Publishing) in 2017.

In 2017/18 she will be a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Chichester, where she previously studied as a mature student, gaining a first class BA in English and a masters in Creative Writing with distinction.  Her essay on the subject of voice features in Writing a First Novel by Karen Stevens (Palgrave MacMillan 2014).

Isabel grew up on the south coast and now lives in West Sussex with her carpenter husband, their two children and their dogs Charlie and Leonard.  Together with Leonard the dachshund, she is a proud volunteer for the Pets as Therapy Read2Dogs scheme, an initiative aimed at nurturing confidence in young readers and promoting a lifelong love of books.

Isabel is a member of the Society of Authors.

Author Links: | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: I Know Your Secret by Graham Smith (@GrahamSmith1972) @caffeinenights

i-know-your-secret-book-cover“What would you do if your most intimate secrets got into the wrong hands?”

“Set in modern day Cumbria, I Know Your Secret is a police thriller in which a priest is found crucified to the stone floor of his church. Fearing more attacks on the clergy, DI John Campbell and his team of misfits race to find the killer before he strikes again.

Meanwhile, DI Harry Evans, spends his days attending the trial of his wife’s rapist and his nights interfering in the investigation.

Can they catch the killer before he strikes again?”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop (and sadly the final stop) on the I Know Your Secret blog tour.  I was thrilled to be asked to read and review this book after recently participating in the Matching the Evidence blog tour, also by author Graham Smith.  If you would like to read my review of Matching the Evidence please click here (there is also a rather brilliant guest post from Mr Smith which you don’t want to miss).

After 30 years of service DI Harry Evans is approaching enforced retirement.  He’s not a happy man as he lives for the job and would do anything to keep working with Cumbria’s Major Crimes Team.  But his replacement, DI John Campbell is keen to see the back of Harry and his renegade ways.  While DI Evans is trying to deal with the trial of his wife’s rapist, DI Campbell is called to the scene of a horrific death.  A local priest has been violently killed and crucified to the church floor.  Shortly after, another priest is viciously attacked and left for dead.  Are the two crimes linked?  It’s down to DI Campbell and the Major Crimes Team to discover who has a grudge against the local clergy and whether the secrets being kept are worth killing for…

I really like Harry Evans.  There’s something about him that makes me feel like I shouldn’t like him, but I do!  He’s a bit of a maverick, bit of a rule breaker but with a good heart.  And I love the camaraderie between him and the rest of the team.  I said in my Matching the Evidence review that I wanted to know more about the characters of the Major Crimes Team and this book has done that.  I really like Neil Chisolm and felt strangely sorry for him being stuck in the office rather than out there in the field with his colleagues.  I wasn’t so keen on Lauren, she seems a little too eager to use her feminine wiles rather than her smarts.  I’d love to know more about Bhaki, he seems a little too nice and polite to be a cop!  And I still haven’t warmed to DI John Campbell.  But he brings the necessary friction to a well-gelled team, which makes him quite vital.

Harry Evans is distracted throughout the story by the trial of his wife’s rapist.  I thought these sections were well written and gave an emotional insight into a normally gruff character.  I really felt for Harry.  I did enjoy the way he dipped in and out of the investigation to distract himself from what was happening in court.

There were several different threads running through the story and at times I couldn’t see the connection.  There were no clear links in my mind, but the author has done a brilliant job of linking the different storylines up and making the plots fit seamlessly together.  The book was well paced with an exciting conclusion.  I look forward to reading more from Graham Smith in the future.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Noelle Holten, Graham Smith and Caffeine Nights Publishing for providing me with a copy of  I Know Your Secret in exchange for an honest review.

I Know Your Secret by Graham Smith was published in the UK by Caffeine Nights publishing on 17th October 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Caffeine Nights |

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Smith & Sons (11)

graham-smith-author-photoGraham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009

He is the author of four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website |
Graham’s Books: Matching the Evidence | Snatched from Home | Lines of Enquiry | I Know Your Secret |

#BookReview: Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes (@Elizjhaynes)

510uL5rtumL“Sarah Carpenter lives in an isolated farmhouse in North Yorkshire and for the first time, after the death of her husband some years ago and her children, Louis and Kitty, leaving for university, she’s living alone. But she doesn’t consider herself lonely. She has two dogs, a wide network of friends and the support of her best friend, Sophie.

When an old acquaintance, Aiden Beck, needs somewhere to stay for a while, Sarah’s cottage seems ideal; and renewing her relationship with Aiden gives her a reason to smile again. It’s supposed to be temporary, but not everyone is comfortable with the arrangement: her children are wary of his motives, and Will Brewer, an old friend of her son’s, seems to have taken it upon himself to check up on Sarah at every opportunity. Even Sophie has grown remote and distant.

After Sophie disappears, it’s clear she hasn’t been entirely honest with anyone, including Will, who seems more concerned for Sarah’s safety than anyone else. As the weather closes in, events take a dramatic turn and Kitty too goes missing. Suddenly Sarah finds herself in terrible danger, unsure of who she can still trust.

But she isn’t facing this alone; she has Aiden, and Aiden offers the protection that Sarah needs. Doesn’t he?”

In case you missed it (YOU MISSED IT? *humph* – only kidding) Elizabeth Haynes appeared on damppebbles last Saturday, 30th July 2016, as part of her Never Alone blog tour.  Elizabeth wrote a fantastic piece about her early days as a writer and learning her craft.  Click here to have a look – trust me, you don’t want to miss it.  Today I am delighted to share my review of this wonderful book with you.

Sarah is lonely.  Her husband died in a tragic accident, her son despises her and her daughter has gone to university.  She has friends in the village and her two dogs but it’s easy to become cutoff from society when you live in a remote farmhouse on the North Yorkshire moors.  Thankfully all that changes when old flame Aiden Beck turns up looking for a room to rent.  Sarah leaps at the chance to have her ex-lover living in the farmhouse’s empty cottage, a stones throw from her.  But what is Aiden not telling Sarah? And exactly how close are Aiden and Sarah’s best friend, Sophie?  And where has Sophie suddenly disappeared to…?

This is a real page turner.  Elizabeth Haynes has once again done exactly what she does best and turned out a cracking psychological thriller that fans, old and new, will adore.  There is something about Elizabeth’s style that immediately draws you in; it feels familiar but with an edge and you know you are in for a twisty ride of a read.

It’s a little bit saucy in places.  Frequent visitors to damppebbles will know that I’m not a fan of bedroom naughtiness in my books.  But saying that, it fitted with the story and wasn’t too over the top so I didn’t find it an issue.  It’s certainly not Fifty Shades of Grey, put it that way!

Sarah was my favourite character in the novel.  Initially she felt quite dowdy but as the story progressed she seemed to shed that dowdiness and become more of a mumsy minx! Maybe that was due to Aiden’s arrival as, the way he’s described, I think most of us ladies would go weak at the knees.  I found Sarah’s relationship with her son, Louis, strangely upsetting and I wanted to know so much more about it (maybe there’s scope there for a novella?!).

The way Elizabeth Haynes describes the locations in the book, and particularly the area around Sarah’s farmhouse, was quite stunning.  Even more so when the snow storm hits. Elizabeth made me switch between wanting to live in Sarah’s beautiful farmhouse, to being absolutely terrified of being cut off from society in the blink of an eye.

Would I recommend this book?  Of course I would!  It’s a great read, very gripping and brilliantly written.  Full of dark suspicious characters and their well (or maybe, not so well) hidden secrets.  A real page turner from start to finish.

Four and a half stars out of five.

Many thanks to Emma Dowson, Myriad Editions and Elizabeth Haynes for providing me with a copy of Never Alone in exchange for an honest review.

Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes was published in the UK by Myriad Editions in eBook format on 28th July 2016.  The paperback version will be published on 6th October 2016 | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Myriad Editions |

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elizabeth haynes mlibElizabeth Haynes is a former police intelligence analyst who lives in Norfolk with her husband and son. Her first novel, Into the Darkest Corner, was Amazon’s Best Book of the Year 2011 and is a New York Times bestseller. It has been published in thirty-seven countries. Her second novel, Revenge of the Tide, was published by Myriad in 2012 and her third, Human Remains, was published in 2013. She is also the author of two police procedural crime novels, Under a Silent Moon and Behind Closed Doors (Sphere).  Connect with Elizabeth Haynes via Twitter @Elizjhaynes.