#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 |

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#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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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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie

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

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

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

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

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

portobello beach

Portobello beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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Alison Taylor-Baillie

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

*Blog Tour: Review* Anything For Her by Jack Jordan

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“Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you.

Louise Leighton’s life has fallen apart, all because of one fateful night. Her husband is an adulterer, her sister is his mistress, and soon, Louise will lose everything she owns. But she never imagined she would lose her daughter.

Eighteen-year-old Brooke Leighton is missing. It’s up to Louise and the Metropolitan Police to find her. Has Brooke run away? Or has she been taken against her will? And can Louise aid the investigation without mentioning the night where all of her troubles began?

If she mentions that night, she will incriminate her daughter for heinous crimes. But if she doesn’t, she may never find Brooke; and if she has been abducted, the person who took her may come for Louise, too.

Sometimes the past comes back to kill you.”

I am delighted to be part of the Anything For Her blog tour today.  Many thanks to Jack Jordan for asking me to participate.  Anything For Her is Jack’s debut novel with his second, My Girl, published in July 2016.

The sense of foreboding in this book is spine tingling.  As soon as you start reading you know that something about these characters, something they’ve done, is catastrophic. From start to finish my heart rate increased by a few beats a minutes and I felt tense, waiting…

Louise Leighton’s life is falling apart.  Everything that can go wrong is, and it’s going wrong with bells on it!  Her husband has been cheating on her, with her sister. Her husband is about to be arrested for tax evasion and fraud (seems the husband is to blame for most of her misery!).  She and her family are about to lose everything they own in order to pay her husband’s debts.  But worst of all, Louise has a secret.  Now her daughter is missing and deep down Louise knows it’s all because of THAT night. The night life changed forever for the Leighton family…

This book is chock full of suspense.  It’s an ‘edge of your seat’ read and very hard to put down once you start (I read it in a day which is very quick for me).  The only character I really warmed to was the lovely Dominic, Louise’s young son.  Everyone else has a slightly sinister edge which makes it a challenge to like them.  I really wanted to like Louise but she is so flawed that I failed, miserably.  Plus I’m really not all that sure about her style of parenting!  I’m definitely not a perfect mum myself but, oh my!

I found certain parts of the story quite creepy.  There is one scene (I’m trying very hard to not give anything away for those that haven’t read it yet) where Louise wakes up in bed after a heavy night on the wine to find she is not alone.  Just thinking about it now makes me shudder!

I have Jack Jordan’s new book, My Girl, to read and I’m very much looking forward to it. Even more so after reading this his debut novel.  Oh, and did I mention that I’m on the blog tour for My Girl too?

Four and a half out of five stars.

Many thanks to Jack Jordan for providing me with a copy of Anything For Her in exchange for an honest review.

Anything For Her by Jack Jordan was published in the UK on 21st June 2015 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com |

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Photo by Titus Powell

Jack Jordan lives in East Anglia, England. He is an introvert disguised as an extrovert, an intelligent person who can say very unintelligent things, and a self-confessed bibliomaniac with more books than sense. ‘Anything for Her’ is Jack Jordan’s debut novel.

Connect with Jack via Twitter @_JackJordan_

 

 

 

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