#BookReview: The Island by C.L. Taylor @HQstories #TheIsland #damppebbles

Welcome to The Island.

Where your worst fears are about to come true…

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.

But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime turns into a nightmare.

Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re becoming a reality.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Island by C.L. Taylor. The Island was published by HQ Young Adult on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

I had a bit of a break in my planned reading so I turned to my own groaning bookshelves for inspiration. It’s true, there are a LOT of books all vying for attention on my shelves but The Island by C.L. Taylor easily won out. I’m really enjoying YA fiction at the moment (in the form of thrillers, mysteries and horror) and I’ve read a number of this author’s adult books so I was very keen to get stuck into The Island, the author’s second YA thriller.

Six teens are heading out on the holiday of a lifetime to Thailand. Their parents, who met at an antenatal class seventeen years ago and have always stayed in touch, get together once a year for a holiday. This year they’re upping the ante thanks to Jefferson’s dad who is hiring an isolated island and guide to celebrate his son’s 17th birthday. Whilst the parents relax in the lap of luxury, their kids will be skinning rabbits and building shelters. But once they arrive on the island things start to go wrong. Their guide dies suddenly and the boat is rendered useless when they discover the starter cord has been cut. And then their worst nightmares really start coming true. Long held phobias start manifesting themselves. Someone on the island knows what terrifies the teens the most and they’re going to do everything they can to make their lives a living hell…

The Island is a very engaging, very readable novel which I enjoyed. The story is told from two points of view – Jessie’s and Danny’s. I really liked Jessie from the moment I met her. Recent events hang heavy over her head and she’s clearly still grieving following the horrific death of her older brother. Since her last holiday with the group she’s changed and feels more on the periphery. She refuses to discuss what happened to her sibling and the others don’t ask or offer support so a lot is left to bubble beneath the surface. She’s unpredictable and perhaps a little reckless at times, changed by events but more than anything, she needs someone to talk to. Jessie’s character is very well written as I felt her pain and her angst. The other characters in the book – Jefferson, Milo, Meg, Honor (and of course, Danny who I’ve already mentioned) – are interesting and well-drawn. They play their parts well and help move the story along.

The plot is fast paced and gripping, with something always happening to hold the reader’s attention. I enjoyed the isolation the author creates and the way tension builds throughout the story. I did feel the numerous mentions of help only being one week away (when their parents realise their children haven’t returned to the hotel) did dampen the tension a little bit, but only a smidge. After all, there’s still the risk that not all six teens will make it out alive (no spoilers here). I’m afraid I was able to guess whodunit fairly early on and each new clue only cemented my suspicions further. However, I will say I am NOT the target audience for this book, I DO read a lot of thrillers AND I’m always on the lookout for whodunit, no matter what book I’m reading.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for a well-written, engaging YA thriller then The Island is it. The author is skilled at writing interesting, complex characters which this book once again proves. I didn’t like all of them. At times one in particular made my blood boil, but they were my camp mates for the two days it took me to read The Island and I did (mostly) enjoy spending time with them. Well-paced, well written and a book I’m keen for my kids to read when they’re old enough to. A gripping and emotional YA thriller which I recommend.

The Island by C.L. Taylor was published in the UK by HQ Young Adult on 21st January 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

C.L. TaylorC.L. Taylor is an award winning Sunday Times bestselling author of nine gripping psychological thrillers including SLEEP, a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for autumn 2019. Her books are not a series and can be read in any order:

2014 – THE ACCIDENT / Before I Wake (U.S.)
2015 – THE LIE
2016 – THE MISSING
2017 – THE ESCAPE
2018 – THE FEAR
2019 – SLEEP
2020 – STRANGERS
2021 – HER LAST HOLIDAY
2022 – THE GUILTY COUPLE

She has also written two Young Adult thrillers, THE TREATMENT and THE ISLAND.

C.L. Taylor’s books have sold in excess of a million copies, been number one on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and have been translated into over 25 languages and optioned for TV.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014. She lives in Bristol with her partner and son.

#BookReview: Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard @CorvusBooks @theotherkirsty #RunTime #RunTimeBook #damppebbles

Movie-making can be murder.

The project
Final Draft, a psychological horror, being filmed at a house deep in a forest, miles from anywhere in the wintry wilds of West Cork.

The lead
Former soap-star Adele Rafferty has stepped in to replace the original actor at the very last minute. She can’t help but hope that this opportunity will be her big break – and she knows she was lucky to get it, after what happened the last time she was on a set.

The problem
Something isn’t quite right about Final Draft. When the strange goings-on in the script start to happen on set too, Adele begins to fear that the real horror lies off the page…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard. Run Time will be published by Corvus Books later this week (that’s Thursday 18th August 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital format with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of Run Time but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Kirsty at Corvus Books for sending me a proof copy.

I recently had the pleasure of reading The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard and absolutely loved it (my review of The Nothing Man will be published on the blog in the coming weeks so keep an eye out for that!). When I saw that the author’s latest book revolves around the set of a horror film, I knew I had to read it. There were several reasons for this: 1) the author is a superb writer 2) I loved the concept of the book and 3) as well as being a crime fiction fan I’m a huge fan of horror fiction so Run Time really grabbed my attention. There was no way I was going to let this one pass me by!

Adele Rafferty is a struggling actor who despite becoming a household name due to appearing in an Irish soap opera, now makes beds at a dingy Hollywood motel. Believing her own hype, Adele made a few bad career choices which ended up with her not being able to work in Ireland anymore. So she headed to LA where dreams rarely come true. Struggling and destitute in Hollywood, and trying to reclaim her past glory via a string of failed auditions, she’s on the brink of giving up. That is until she receives a call. Cross Cut Productions led by Steve Dade and Daniel O’Leary are making a horror movie and they want Adele as the lead. It would mean returning to Ireland but the intense night time filming schedule means she won’t need to see anyone from her past. It’s an opportunity she can’t miss and if the movie is a success then it’ll right all the horrible wrongs, Adele will be a star again! But at what cost? As the odd goings-on in the script start to happen in real life, Adele realises that she’s in terrible, terrible danger…

Run Time is a thoroughly engrossing thriller which I found both gripping and hugely entertaining. Adele has her secrets which the reader is not made party to until much later but you know something pretty catastrophic has happened to stop her returning to Ireland, particularly when she’s struggling in LA as much as she is. When she receives the call at the last minute to star in Final Draft, a psychological horror movie based on the novel First Draft, it seems to be the answer to her prayers. The filming schedule is intense, over the course of two weeks, and at night, which means she won’t have to see anyone outside of the cast and crew as they’ll all be resting during the day. But as she approaches the set, down a long winding road, bumping over the potholes, in a taxi driven by a peculiar woman, you know things aren’t going to turn out well for Adele. The author masterfully sets the scene, sending chills down the readers spine and ratcheting the tension up beautifully.

The author has created such a well-plotted, clever story with very lifelike characters. I really felt for Adele. I had no idea what had happened to her in the past to make her run away from all she knew but whatever it was, I don’t think it really mattered to me. She’s not perfect (far from it!) and I don’t know if everyone will warm to her but I was certainly rooting for the character. Things start off fairly benign, early occurrences can be easily explained away but as the frequency and intensity increase, Adele’s situation and it’s terrifying implications are impossible to ignore.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Run Time is a well paced, creepy novel which builds beautifully over the course of the book to a thrilling, shocking conclusion. I did not see that coming, let me tell you! Interspersed amongst the live-action chapters which follow Adele on her journey through the creepy old house and into the surrounding woods, are chapters from the movie’s script. I really enjoyed these sections as they included the stage directions. I was a little apprehensive at first that they would interrupt the flow of the story but that was not the case at all. I quickly became accustomed to the presentation and found the script really added something to an already well-written story. Very inventive, highly original and superbly entertaining. Recommended.

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

Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard was published in the UK by Corvus Books on 11th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Catherine Ryan HowardCATHERINE RYAN HOWARD is an internationally bestselling author from Cork, Ireland. Her work has been shortlisted for the CWA’s John Creasey New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Dagger awards, and in 2019 her novel THE LIAR’S GIRL was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. THE NOTHING MAN was a no. 1 bestseller in her native Ireland. She currently lives in Dublin, where she divides her time between the desk and the sofa.

#BookReview: The Game by Scott Kershaw @HQstories #TheGame #damppebbles

To save their life, you have to play.

Across the globe, five strangers receive a horrifying message from an unknown number.

THE PERSON YOU LOVE MOST IS IN DANGER.

To save them, each must play The Game – a sinister unknown entity that has a single rule: there can only be one winner.

IF YOU LOSE, YOUR LOVED ONE WILL DIE.

But what is The Game – and why have they been chosen?

There’s only one thing each of them knows for sure: they’ll do anything to win…

WELCOME TO THE GAME. YOU’VE JUST STARTED PLAYING.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Game by Scott Kershaw. The Game was published by HQ on Thursday 12th May 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Game but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have to admit that when I saw the tagline of this book, before I’d even read the blurb, I knew it was a book I needed in my life. And when I say ‘needed’ what I actually meant was NEEDED in big, shouty capitals. There was not a squeak of a chance that I would let this novel pass me by. And I’m so glad I became hooked so early on because it’s an absolute corker of a novel, a non-stop thrill ride for the reader.

Five strangers across the globe receive a text message from an unknown number. Play the game or your loved one dies. There can only be one winner. The rules are simple. Five lives are immediately turned upside down. They know in their heart of hearts that they will do whatever it takes to win. The clock is ticking. The game has begun…

The Game is a gripping, propulsive thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the concept from the get-go. I loved the way the story is set out so you meet each ‘player’ one by one, get to know what makes them tick, before they’re thrust into the worst situation of their life. And I loved how engrossingly urgent the novel is. It’s such an accomplished, high concept story that I was able to lose myself within the pages of the book with ease. It was a thrill to read.

The author gives enough of each character’s backstory to get a good feel for them and their motivations but not too much to slow the story down. All five characters are clearly defined and very different, which I appreciated. Once we’ve met the ‘players’ we get to hear from each of them, sharing in their terror at the situation they’ve found themselves in. There are also sections in the book labelled ‘Pre Game’ which I found very intriguing. I couldn’t work out how the ‘Pre Game’ sections linked to the main story. But it all becomes crystal clear in the end, uncomfortably so. The reveal towards the end of the book, for me, was completely unexpected. I was both shocked and stunned to discover what had been going on all this time. It’s incredibly well written.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Game is a high energy, non-stop, modern day thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed. The concept, coupled with the engrossing writing, made for a compelling read. I had to find out who was pulling the strings here. I had to discover if there was something which linked these five complete strangers to each other. Full of menace, overflowing with tension and a growing sense of unease throughout. A very readable, very rewarding thrill ride which I recommend.

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

The Game by Scott Kershaw was published in the UK by HQ on 12th May 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Scott KershawScott Kershaw has co-written a thriller that was published by Bloomsbury in 2019 and has been optioned for a TV drama series by the BBC. His own high-concept thriller THE GAME will be published by HQ in Spring 2022. He has a first-class honours degree in Professional Writing, has written another novel (Animus), and formerly travelled Europe as a music journalist. He lives in the cloudy north of England with his hooligan of a beagle, Darwin.

#BookReview: The Box by Dan Malakin @ViperBooks #TheBox #damppebbles

“To save your child you must open The Box…

Ed Truman’s family is falling apart. His daughter Ally is being targeted by an alt-right incel organisation, Men Together. His house is being picketed, former clients are accusing him of sexual assault, his son won’t speak to him. And then Ally disappears.

Frantic, Ed suspects that Men Together have abducted her. But before he can go to the police, his DNA is found on the body of a young woman. Suddenly he’s the subject of a nationwide manhunt, led by the tenacious DCI Jackie Rose. Ed finds himself on the run with Ally’s friend, Phoenix, who claims to know where Ally is. But what is the truth? Is Ed a violent sexual predator? Or is he the victim of a ruthless conspiracy? The answers are in The Box. But not everyone who goes in, comes out alive…

From the bestselling author of The Regret, this heart-pounding thriller is perfect for readers of Harlan Coben, Mark Billingham and M.W. Craven.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Box by Dan Malakin. The Box will be published by Viper Books later this week (on Thursday 16th June 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Box but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Ed Truman’s family is falling apart and his life is unravelling.  His sixteen year old daughter, Ally, publicly provoked the leader of a powerful alt-right misogynistic men’s group, Men Together, and in retaliation all of Ally’s personal details, including her bank account and passwords, have been published on their website. Ed, a successful lawyer, fights back the only way he knows how – by requesting an injunction to have the website taken down. Now a group of protestors are picketing outside Ed’s house in an attempt to sully the lawyer’s good name. But their tactics go way beyond a few leaflets to the neighbours. Before long Ally is missing and Ed knows in his gut that Men Together are responsible. When Ed’s DNA is found on the body of a murdered woman he takes flight. Hunted by both the police and Men Together, can Ed find Ally in time and save her from The Box…?

This high octane thriller is a thoroughly gripping read which held my attention from the first word to the final page. This is the first book I’ve read by this author but I can absolutely guarantee it won’t be the last.

Malakin really knows how to write excellent characters who evoke a reaction in the reader. There are three absolutely standout characters for me in this book. The first being Ed Truman who is a pretty normal guy. A family man but in all honesty does he really devote enough of his time and attention to his wife, daughter and son? No, not really. He’s made mistakes and he continues to make them. At times I liked Ed, at others I wanted to shake my head at him and give him my disappointed look! The next character that definitely deserves a mention is DCI Jackie Rose who is the kick-ass, ‘don’t care much for the rules’ detective tasked with hunting Ed down for the murder of the young woman. Oh my gosh! I loved her. She’s a bit obnoxious, totally driven and very hot headed. Sure, there are rules but they can be broken as and when needed! Alongside her new ‘by the book’ DS, clashing heads along the way, they lead the search for Ed. The final character I need to mention, who made me so cross I nearly threw the book across the room, is Benedict Silver. Right-hand man to the head honcho of Men Together, this arrogant, chauvinistic, misogynistic psychopath made my blood boil at frequent points throughout the book and I loved it! I’m a strong believer that books should make you feel ‘something’, evoke an emotion of some sort and Silver did just that. I loved the scenes featuring both DCI Rose and Silver. Both strong characters, staring each other down, waiting to see which of the two would break eye contact first. Marvellous!

The plot is paced well with lots of thrills and spills along the way. Before picking this book up I expected the titular ‘Box’ to drive the characters forward towards an end goal but no one other than Phoenix, a girl Ed goes on the run with, knows anything about it! She has the footage to prove what’s been going on. Now all she needs is for the nation to believe her. ‘The Box’ is key to the storyline and plays a pivotal part but I was surprised to discover it wasn’t the driving force. Ed’s sole motivation is evading the police long enough to rescue his daughter. No matter how you look at it though, what ‘the box’ definitely is, without a shadow of a doubt, is darn right horrific. The stuff nightmares are made of. But gosh, it felt uncomfortably believable. What a terrifying thought!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Box is a chilling, edge of your seat modern day thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The writing is punchy with short chapters which pull the reader into the story, keeping them hooked until the final heart breaking reveal. There are some big surprises along the way but I had my suspicions as to how things were going to pan out, which were confirmed. However, what I didn’t see coming was the events of the epilogue which felt right and just to me and, following everything that had come before, a perfect way to end this thrilling novel. Malakin has delivered a powerful, high concept thriller which deserves to fly off the shelves and I look forward to reading more of his work soon. Recommended.

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

The Box by Dan Malakin was published in the UK by Viper Books on 16th June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date (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 |

Dan MalakinDan Malakin has twice been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and his debut novel, The Regret, was a Kindle bestseller. When not writing thrillers, Dan works as a data security consultant, teaching corporations how to protect themselves from hackers. He lives in North London with his wife and daughter.

His new novel, an action thriller called The Box, will be released by Viper Books in June 2022.

#BlogTour | #Extract: Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian @DoubledayUK @midaspr #WhereBloodRunsCold #damppebbles

“Erik Amdahl and his spirited daughter, Sofia, have embarked on a long-promised cross-country ski trip deep into Norway’s arctic circle. For Erik, it’s the chance to bond properly with his remaining daughter following a tragic accident. For Sofia, it’s the proof she needs that her father does care.

Then, far from home in this snowbound wilderness, with night falling and the mercury plummeting, an accident sends them in search of help – and shelter. Nearby is the home of a couple – members of Norway’s indigenous Sami people – who they’ve met before, and who welcome them in. Erik is relieved. He believes the worst is over. He thinks that Sofia is now safe. He could not be more wrong. He and Sofia are not the old couple’s only visitors that night – and soon he and Sofia will be running for their lives . . .
…and beneath the swirling light show of the Northern Lights, a desperate fight ensues – of man against man, of man against nature – a fight for survival that plays out across the snow and ice.

A story of endurance and of the desperate, instinctive will to survive, of a father’s love for his child, of knowing when to let go – and of a daughter’s determination to prove herself worthy of that love, Where Blood Runs Cold is a pulse-racing thriller from a master storyteller.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the Where Blood Runs Cold blog tour. Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian is published by Doubleday Books today (that’s Thursday 24th February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. To celebrate publication of Where Blood Runs Cold I have a fantastic extract to share with you today so pull up a comfy chair, grab a coffee and enjoy…

Chapter 2

He’s having the dream again. He knows he’s dreaming and still he cannot steer its course. He never can. The figure is more shadow than man. More dark presence than human form. More of a sensation, like the heaviness in your gut when you’ve lashed out and hurt the feelings of someone you love. Or the clenching tightness in your chest when something is broken that you know can’t be fixed.

He feels all this even in the dream. Knowing he’s in the dream. But this time it’s different, and despite the dread, he moves closer.

What are you? he asks.

He sees in the dark form the outline of a face. An eye. And Sofia is here too. Here I am! he shouts to her but she can’t hear him. The terror is on him now. In him. Its claws sinking into the soft meat of his heart. Sofia!

She’s moving towards the figure. No– stay away! Sofia, stay with me!

He hears his daughter scream.

‘Erik!’ He woke with a start, Elise’s voice bringing him back. The fuzzy blue display of the alarm clock sharpened as he swung himself out of bed, heart racing, knowing that the scream had been real. Three twenty-two a.m.

‘She’s having a nightmare,’ Elise said, already on the landing. Erik stumbled after her and through the doorway. Elise pushed open the door of their daughter’s bedroom.

‘Shh, darling. It’s just a dream,’ she soothed, as she sat on the bed beside Sofia and took the girl’s hands in her own.

‘Just a dream.’

Erik exhaled sharply, still trying to blink away his own dream, which clung to his mind and body, heavy as wet clothing.

‘Pappa,’ Sofia said, half awake, half dreaming still.

Erik sat on Sofia’s other side, gently running a hand through her sweat-and sleep-tangled hair, pushing it back from her face. ‘It’s OK, Lillemor, Pappa’s here.’

‘I’ll bring her some water,’ Elise said, leaving Erik with Sofia.

‘It’s OK. You go back to sleep now. I’m here.’ He leant and kissed her on the forehead, holding his lips there a moment. ‘We love you so much.’

She smiled and squashed her head back into the pillow as he stood.

‘Love you,’ she said, her words slurred as if she was already drifting off.

══════════════════

The next morning, he got up early and set to work clearing the rest of the roof. When it was done, he found Elise at the dining table, laptop open, coffee beside her, those two vertical furrows between her eyebrows and nose as subtle as a do not disturb hanger on a hotel room door.

She didn’t need to look up to know what he was thinking.

‘I just need an hour or two,’ she said, frowning at the laptop screen as her fingers danced across the keyboard. How she could type and speak different words at the same time was a mystery to him.

He couldn’t help himself. ‘I thought you weren’t starting for a week?’ he said.

Her right hand left the keys, index finger pointing up.

‘You were on the roof.’

‘You were still in bed,’ he said.

She took a weary breath and looked up at him now, the creases of her concentration frown melting away. ‘It’s my first job back with them. I want to be prepared.’ She gestured at her laptop. ‘And it’s important.’

So he and Sofia drove into town to the Vinmonopolet to buy wine. Once back in the car, he turned, taking a moment to look at her.

‘I can’t believe you’re going to be a teenager,’ he said.

She raised her eyebrows, no doubt recalling all the times they had called her a sulky teenager long before the eve of her thirteenth birthday.

‘I mean it.’ He shook his head. ‘Where has the time gone?’

‘Pappa,’ she said, staring ahead through the windscreen, ‘you promised to take me on the Long Ski when I was thirteen. Remember? A proper trip. Sleeping in snow shelters and everything.’

He kept his eyes on the road. A knot tying in his stomach.

‘You promised, Pappa,’ Sofia pushed.

‘I know,’ he said. ‘But that was a couple of years ago.’

Before Emilie died, he left unsaid, though it was loud enough in the silence.

‘I’m thirteen tomorrow. I’m old enough.’

‘I don’t think we can do it this time,’ he said.

‘But you promised,’ she protested. ‘Emilie asked you, the Easter before last, and you told her to wait until I was thirteen and then the three of us would go together.’

‘I know what I said.’ His words were sharper than he’d intended. Just the mention of her name. ‘But so much has happened since then. It’s different now.’

He glanced at her and she shook her head and turned her face to stare out of the side window.

He remembered that day in crisp detail. Emilie had borrowed her grandfather’s well-thumbed maps, still marked with pen from his own trips, and plotted a five-day, four-night ski tour through woods and across frozen lakes. She had been so excited. But Sofia had been too young to go.

And so Erik had told Emilie that they would wait until Sofia was thirteen and they could all go together. He had known how disappointed Emilie was. And yet she had explained the route plan to Sofia, who had listened wide-eyed and announced to the whole family that she would remind Erik of his promise the day she turned thirteen. He had known she wouldn’t forget.

But it wasn’t Easter now, with its fourteen hours of daylight, when the crisp sunlight offered warmth for the climb and gently melted the snow’s surface, creating perfect conditions for the descent. It was only just February, and the days were short and cold.

‘Let’s give it another year, Lillemor,’ he said. ‘Just one more year and then we’ll go on the Long Ski. A real adventure, I promise.’

Silence. Another promise he wasn’t sure he could keep.

══════════════════

‘Thank God for the directions you emailed me,’ Elise told Karine as they’d stood in the Helgelands’ front porch, stamping snow off their boots and hanging up coats and hats. Turning on the happy family show like throwing the light switch at a winter fair.

‘We’re expecting more snow,’ Lars said, leaning out to look up at the grey cloud blanketing the sky. ‘In a few days you won’t be able to get up here in that.’ He was pointing at the Mitsubishi. ‘Snowmobiles are the only way when we get a heavy fall.’

Karin and Lars were perfect hosts, generous and welcoming, and Lars clearly enjoyed a beer, which gave him enough in common with Erik to see the evening off to a better start than he had expected.

Elise asked if it ever worried them, being so remote, but Lars just chuckled.

‘We love living out here,’ he said, gesturing towards the window. The curtains were open and the snow beyond the glass glowed gently in the black night. ‘We’re not city people, as you can tell.’ He looked over at Karine, who was in the kitchen showing Elise her recipe for fiskeboller, the delicate fish balls in a creamy sauce whose fragrant scent filled the air. ‘If we wanted visitors all the time, we’d live in Tromsø,’ Lars said, a mischievous smile on his face.

Lars must have been in his early sixties, Erik guessed, but he was still broad-shouldered and solid, his hands tanned from so many summers of outside work, even now after the long winter.

‘Ah, there are cabins being built all the time,’ Lars added.

‘Beautiful things of cedar wood. Even the roofs are cedar. Inside, everything cladded in oak. Huge windows with views of the mountains and the sea. Built to follow the contours of the landscape and laid out . . . just so,’ he said, waving a broad hand. He rubbed the bristles on his cheek. ‘Well, you know all this. Karine tells me you’re a carpenter? You must be a busy man with all the houses springing up these days.’

‘Actually, I’m taking some time out,’ Erik replied, feeling Elise’s eyes on him from the kitchen doorway. Time out.

When was the last time he fitted a staircase, window frame, or skirting board? Or looked at a set of blueprints? Ten months ago he had hung a digital Sorry . . . Temporarily Closed sign on his website, and there it hung still. Amdahl Carpentry shut down for business until further notice.

Once dinner was underway, the conversation inevitably turned towards Novotroitsk Nickel, and how the locals felt about the Russian-owned company buying the mineral rights to the old Koppangen copper mine west of town. Lars, Karine and Elise shared their fears about waste being dumped in the fjord. About how the Sami Council was ignored, and how the government was willing to destroy the indigenous land in the north of Norway.

On and on it went, and he listened. Barely. Swirling the wine round his glass as Karine retrieved a letter from her cork board beside the fridge.

‘This came yesterday,’ Karine said, handing it to Elise.

He saw the logo of Novotroitsk Nickel on the letterhead, two blue Ns interlinked like a pair of mountain peaks. ‘They said it was just an exploration project at first,’ Karine said, ‘to see if the old mine had industrial potential. This was about a year ago.’ She gestured at the letter in Elise’s hands.

‘That outlines their intention to explore the abandoned tunnels further and dig three new test pits, pending the results of a feasibility study.’ She pushed her plate away as though talk of the mine’s reopening had soured the food.

Truth was, he was bored of the conversation. Angry too, because he knew this was what Elise cared about. Her obsession. And he’d been wrong to think they could find each other again here in the mountains. Plus, the wine had gone to his head in all its euphoric fuck-it brilliance, and so he told them that the world needed copper if it wanted electricity.

That it was how electricity worked.

‘We’re all for electric cars, right?’ he said. ‘If we’re going to electrify the world to save it, then maybe we have to be prepared to lose some of the old ways.’

‘Are you joking?’ Karine Helgeland asked him, her aspect hardening, suddenly expressing all the cheer of a granite rock face.

‘It’s just the wine talking,’ Elise said, a smile on her lips but anger in her eyes.

Karine suggested they talk about something else, and Lars stood, telling Sofia he had something to show her.

Elise left the table too, carrying dishes to the kitchen. And so he sat alone, watching as Lars showed Sofia the contents of a beautifully carved wooden box that sat on the windowsill. Beyond it, the night loomed, filling the world with black nothingness. Sofia seemed genuinely interested in the old photos of the Helgelands’ ancestors. In the other treasures too: a comb made of reindeer antler which Sofia said looked just like the ones she’d seen in The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. A horn needle case engraved with little reindeer. A leather purse with tin thread embroidery which had belonged to Karine’s great-grandmother. And most exciting, judging from Sofia’s wide eyes, a huge knife which Lars took down from the stone mantlepiece over the stove.

‘We call this a stuorraniibi,’ Lars told her. He smiled at her frown. ‘It just means big knife.’ He shrugged for comic effect, before drawing the blade from the reindeer leather sheath and making a chopping motion with it. It was nearly twenty-five centimetres long. ‘Long and wide enough to cut firewood or small trees to make shelter poles. Strong enough to split reindeer bones.’ He turned it around to hold it by the spine of the blade. ‘Feel the handle.’ He offered it to Sofia. She touched the wood. ‘Birch,’ he said, ‘for a better grip in cold and snow.’

‘I have a Swiss Army knife,’ Sofia said, and no sooner had she spoken the words than the knife was in her hand and she was easing the little blades and tools out one by one, and now Lars was shaking his head as if he had never seen anything so wonderful, much to Sofia’s delight.

Sofia looked more engaged, more interested than she had about anything he’d done with her for a long while. What exactly had he done with her in the last year? They’d gone hiking a few times, picking late summer berries along the trail. He’d taken her to the Alfheim Stadium to watch Tromsø IL lose to Rosenborg in the fourth round of the Norwegian Cup. Oh, and there was the funeral of her sister. That had been a family day together.

He got up, grabbed hold of the three empty wine bottles and carried them to the kitchen counter.

‘Will you have coffee?’ Karine asked them, fetching mugs down from the cupboard.

Elise glanced at him and he knew the answer. At least they could still communicate without words.

‘No, thank you,’ Elise replied. ‘Our little girl turns thirteen tomorrow. We have a big birthday breakfast to get up for.’ She smiled.

Erik looked over at Sofia. She stood at the window, looking west into the night as Lars told her about Karine’s brother, Hánas, who was a reindeer herder.

‘Right now, while we are cosy and warm,’ Lars said, ‘Hánas is somewhere up there on the plateau with his herd.’ He pointed out at the night and the dark shape of the mountain.

‘Sometimes, we see a light in the dark and we know it is Hánas in his tent,’ Karine said, coming over to join her husband and Sofia at the window.

‘It must be beautiful up there,’ Sofia said.

‘But so cold,’ Elise said, miming a shiver as she put a hand on Sofia’s shoulder.

Sofia didn’t seem to notice. She was still looking up at the mountain. Elise and Karine shared a smile, acknowledging the girl’s preoccupation.

‘So have a very happy birthday tomorrow, Sofia,’ Karine said, ‘and make sure your mor and far spoil you all day, starting with a special breakfast.’ She looked out of the window and nodded to the dark distant peaks. ‘Did you know, on my thirteenth birthday, my father took me up there and taught me how to lasso a fully grown reindeer? A big bull, he was. I can still see him in my mind. Antlers like this.’ She threw her hands up. ‘One and a half metres.’

‘Ha!’ Lars exclaimed, wafting her words away with a hand.

‘Were you there, husband?’ she asked, lifting her chin in challenge, so that Erik could see the stubborn young girl she once was. ‘Whose story is this anyway?’

Again, Lars batted the air with a big hand.

‘So after many attempts I lassoed the bull over his great big antlers, and my father had to help me hold the rope – like this,’ she said, miming the action, ‘or that bull would have carried me off and I would probably still be hanging on now. But then we had to get home before dark because we didn’t want to meet a stallo up there.’

Sofia screwed up her face. ‘What’s a stallo ?’

‘Sofia is too old now for stories of stupid great stallos and trolls,’ Lars said. He was standing by an antique cocktail cabinet, pouring himself a brandy in the soft light from the interior.

‘I was just telling Sofia what I did on my thirteenth birthday,’ Karine said. ‘You have to have adventures when you’re young.’

Erik was watching Sofia as she turned to look at him. He knew what she wanted to tell the Helgelands – that he had promised to take her on the Long Ski when she turned thirteen.

Her silence knotted him up inside.

After declining Lars’s offer of brandy, he and Elise thanked their hosts for a lovely evening, said their goodbyes and crowded into the porch with Sofia to put on their coats, boots and hats.

‘Sofia,’ Lars said, coming out after them, ‘I have something for you.’ They turned and waited as he tramped through the snow after them, their warm breath pluming around their faces. ‘Here, Sofia, for your birthday,’ Lars said.

Sofia held out her hands and took the stuorraniibi he offered her, looking at her mother and father for reassurance.

‘Of course, you must only use it with your parents’ permission,’ Lars said, nodding at Elise, then Erik. ‘But I thought . . . well . . . you have your modern pocket knife which can do everything you can possibly think of, but you should also have something from the past, to remember those who came before us.’

Sofia stared at the gift in her hands, open-mouthed. Not knowing what to say.

Erik looked at Elise. Surely she knew what to say. Like, what the hell’s wrong with you, Lars, giving a bloody great Sami knife to a thirteen-year-old-girl? Who does that?

‘You lucky girl,’ Elise said, putting her arm around Sofia’s shoulder. Subtly trying to squeeze a thank you out of her.

‘Thank you, Mr Helgeland,’ Sofia managed, tearing her eyes away from the knife to look Lars in the face.

‘Take care of a good knife and it will take care of you,’ Lars said. Then he raised his hand. ‘So, see you all again.’ He turned and walked back to the house. ‘And happy birthday, Sofia,’ he called, his breath fogging in the glow of his porch light.

I’m a huge fan of survival thrillers so Where Blood Runs Cold sounds just my thing and I CANNOT WAIT to read it! If you’re anything like me you can grab your copy from your favourite bookseller today. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian was published in the UK by Doubleday Books on 24th February 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Giles KristianGiles Kristian’s first historical novels were the acclaimed and bestselling RAVEN Viking trilogy – Blood Eye, Sons of Thunder and Odin’s Wolves. For his next series, he drew on a long-held fascination with the English Civil War to chart the fortunes of a family divided by this brutal conflict in The Bleeding Land and Brothers’ Fury. Giles also co-wrote Wilbur Smith’s No.1 bestseller, Golden Lion. In God of Vengeance (a TIMES Book of the Year), Winter’s Fire, and the Historical Writers’ Association Gold Crown shortlisted Wings of the Storm, he returned to the world of the Vikings to tell the story of Sigurd and his celebrated fictional fellowship. Lancelot was published to great acclaim and hit The Times bestseller charts at No. 3. It was also a Sunday Times bestseller. He followed Lancelot with Camelot, and his new novel, a thriller called Where Blood Runs Cold, will be published February 2022. To find out more about Giles: www.gileskristian.com
Follow Giles on Facebook and Twitter: @GilesKristian

#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.

#BookReview: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh @BooksSphere #HostageBook #damppebbles

“You can save hundreds of lives.
Or the one that matters most . . .

The atmosphere on board the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney is electric. Celebrities are rumoured to be among the passengers in business class, and the world is watching the landmark journey.

Flight attendant Mina is trying to focus on the passengers, instead of her troubled five-year-old daughter back at home – or the cataclysmic problems in her marriage.

But soon after the plane takes off, Mina receives a chilling anonymous note. Someone wants to make sure the plane never reaches its destination. They’re demanding her cooperation . . . and they know exactly how to get it.

It’s twenty hours to landing.
A lot can happen in twenty hours . . “

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Hostage by Clare Mackintosh. Hostage is published by Sphere today (that’s Tuesday 22nd June 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Hostage but that has in no way influenced my review.

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a huge fan of books with a disaster theme to them. I LOVE them. The complete lack of control the characters have. The gut wrenching knowledge of the situation they’re in. And in the case of Hostage, the intense claustrophobia pressing down on the characters heightening every situation, every twist and turn. There was no way on this earth I was going to be able to resist Hostage, and I loved every second I spent with this immersive thriller.

Mina Holbrook is part of the cabin crew for the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney since 1989. It’s a momentous occasion and one she had to fight for, if only to avoid an uncomfortable lead up to Christmas with her estranged husband, playing happy families. Flight 79 will be remembered forever…but not for the reasons everyone is expecting. A couple of hours into the twenty hour flight, Mina receives a note which changes everything. She must help a hijacker access the flight deck. It goes against everything she believes in, everything she trained for. But the hijacker knows exactly how to get Mina’s co-operation. She has a choice to make; save many lives or just the one…

What a page-turner! I was completely engrossed in Hostage from beginning to end and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride (although I won’t be getting on a plane anytime soon!). It’s a gripping, heart-stopping thriller and I devoured it quicker than anything else I’ve read recently. I struggled with how I felt about Mina. Ultimately she’s put in a very difficult position and makes a choice that I could completely understand. Was it the right decision? Who knows! But I disliked her for it despite it being the decision many of us would also make. Thank goodness this is fiction and not real life. However, after that first event, I started to warm to her again and I think that’s a mark of the author’s excellent writing.  She’s a villain, yes, but she’s not the biggest one by far!

I couldn’t stop thinking about this book when I wasn’t reading it. The pull it had over me was great and I was desperate to find out what terrible event was going to happen next. The reader gets a few short insights into the other passengers lives before the flight and this really helped build their characters for me. There are shocks and surprises galore but I had my suspicions about one aspect of the book which proved to be correct. It didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story at all though. If anything, it added an extra thrill to the big reveal.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Hostage is a gripping thrill-ride of a read which I devoured with glee. There were certain points in the book where I had to suspend my disbelief a little but again, it’s a cracking story so does it really matter. I was entertained. I will admit to shedding a tear at one point but I can’t tell you where or why. You’ll just have to read this cracking novel for yourself! This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it won’t be my last. An edge of your seat thriller which I highly recommend.

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

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 22nd June 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 |

With more than two million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.

Both Clare’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. All three of her books were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club. Clare’s latest novel, After the End, was published in June 2019 and spent seven weeks in the Sunday Times hardback bestseller chart.

Clare’s latest thriller, Hostage, will be published in June 2021.

Together, Clare’s books have been published in more than forty countries. Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

#BookReview: Halcyon by Rio Youers @TitanBooks #Halcyon #damppebbles

Nightmarishly compelling and flawlessly told horror for fans of Paul Tremblay and Joe Hill.

Halcyon is the answer for all Americans who want to escape, but paradise isn’t what it seems. A beautiful self-sustaining community made up of people who want to live without fear, crime, or greed, Halcyon is run by Valerie Kemp, aka Mother Moon, benevolent and altruistic on the outside, but hiding an unimaginable darkness inside. She has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing. And she believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure.

On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. He soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer and sets out to discover the truth, however terrible it might be, behind the island and its mysterious founder.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Halcyon by Rio Youers. Halcyon was published by Titan Books in paperback, digital and audio formats on 23rd October 2018. I received a free ARC of Halcyon but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh wow, this book! I admit it, I’m bookish (shocker, I know!) but rarely do I take to the socials to talk about a book I’m reading (yes, I’m a terrible book blogger). Halcyon hooked me in so quickly and made me fall head over heels in love with the lead characters – a *fairly* average all-American family – that I had to share my concerns, that impending sense of doom, with other book nerds on Twitter. My anxiety was through the roof and by taking regular breaks, putting the book down and taking deep breaths, I had somehow convinced myself (in a completely ridiculous and deluded way) that I could delay whatever horrible things were coming their way. I couldn’t, of course, but I HAD to share how I felt. And if that isn’t the mark of a great book, I don’t know what is!

Martin Lovegrove has had enough. He watches as shocking events are reported almost daily on the news – plane hijackings, mass shootings, multiple car pile-ups, bombings, the list feels endless. Horror after blood-soaked horror. He finally reaches breaking point when tragedy comes knocking at his own door and so vows to do everything he can to protect his two daughters, ten year old Edith and fifteen year old Shirley, and prevent any further trauma. When a stranger in a bar suggests a haven away from the aggression of every day life, Martin is dubious but wants to find out more. How could he not after everything his family have been through? Martin decides to move the family to Halcyon for a few weeks, no more. Unless they really feel at home in their new safe haven. It’ll give them the break they need and hopefully give his eldest daughter, Shirley, something other than darkness to focus on. When they arrive on the island they meet the hypnotic Mother Moon, founder and leader of Halcyon (although no one would be so vulgar as to call her that). After a few days in paradise, Martin realises that not everything is as perfect as it first appears. To help settle his mind and clear up any doubts, he decides to address a few concerns he has with a spot of breaking and entering. The cause of his concern is a small locked box Mother Moon keeps in her cabin. What secrets does it hold? And can Martin handle the truth? Instead of being a haven, it looks like Halcyon could actually be hell on earth…

Halcyon is incredibly well-written and I would pick up another book by this author in a nano-second. What I found particularly enjoyable is how Youers has been extremely clever and gets his reader to fully invest in the Lovegrove family before he starts to tear their lives apart. I found myself enjoying spending time with them and I looked forward to picking up my copy of the book. I mentioned above that they are a *fairly* average family. Well, that’s not entirely true. This is a horror/thriller novel so it has a delightful drizzle of darkness from the opening chapters which comes courtesy of a gift (/curse) one of the Lovegrove clan have. Visions, premonitions, prophesies of great pain, terror and anguish. Horrific night terrors which consume their holder. This darker edge made me love the Lovegroves just that little bit more.

I adored the first third of this book. The pace changes a little for the second third and I found it’s grip loosening a little on me. I was still intrigued as to where the author was going to take the story but watching the happy and contented residents live their happy and contented lives on Halcyon didn’t have the same pull as meeting the Lovegroves (in the first section). Mother Moon is such a brilliantly written character and I found myself surprisingly sympathetic towards her at times. Her story is one of pure darkness and it pulsates with evil. A very memorable character who, despite trying, I probably won’t be able to get out of my head!

The last third is ohmhgoodness, edge-of-your-seat thrilling and I was glued to the book. I was completely in the story with the characters; watching the snow fall and feeling the terror build. It was magnificent.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Halcyon is not a short novel (528 pages) but it’s well worth investing the time in this excellent piece of storytelling. I loved the characters, the setting was beautifully presented, so much so that I can picture Halcyon clearly in my mind’s eye, and the plot took me on one hell of a ride. A thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable reading experience that I would recommend to all. And if the word ‘horror’ puts you off, don’t let it stop you from reading this fantastic book. I promise, you’ll be fine. Recommended.

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

Halcyon by Rio Youers was published in the UK by Titan Books on 23rd October 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsBookshop.orgthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Rio Youers is the British Fantasy and Sunburst Award–nominated author of Westlake Soul and Halcyon. His 2017 thriller, The Forgotten Girl, was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel. He is the writer of Sleeping Beauties, a comic book series based on the bestselling novel by Stephen King and Owen King. Rio’s new novel, Lola on Fire, will be published by William Morrow in February 2021.

#BookReview: The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones @headlinepg #TheDisciple #damppebbles

the discipleThey are coming…

On a storm-battered road at the edge of the Devil’s Kitchen, a woman survives a fatal accident and gives birth to a girl who should never have lived.

The child’s protection lies in the hands of Edward Schwinn – a loner who must draw himself out of darkness to keep her safe – and her arrival will trigger a chain of terrifying events that no one can explain.

She is a child like no other, being hunted by an evil beyond measure.

For if the potential within her is realised, nothing will be the same. Not for Edward. Not for any who live to see it.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones with you. The Disciple was published by Headline Books on 6th October 2016 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Disciple but that has in no way influenced my review.

I want to start this review by asking, what the heck have I just read? Someone? Anyone?! I’ve read all 544 pages and I’m still not sure myself but I do know one thing. I absolutely bloody LOVED it!

Edward Schwinn is a loner. Haunted by his tragic past he hides himself away in the Welsh countryside, avoiding human contact at any cost. Until one day he comes across the scene of a horrific accident. Bodies surround him, bent at strange and unusual angles. Death wasn’t kind to these people and what he witnesses will remain scored in his memory forever. He’s drawn to one of the vehicles, opens the door to discover someone he never expected to see. And she’s heavily pregnant. Fleeing the scene and helping the woman to his rundown home, they spend the night hiding from whoever is looking for her. Until she goes into labour. Unknowingly Schwinn has changed his destiny.  He must protect the child from the forces that wish to destroy her. For the sake of all humanity…

The Disciple doesn’t really fit neatly into any one box. As I read this book I felt I was crossing a number of genre lines. There are definitely some wonderful horror aspects to this story. It’s an edgy thriller which had me on the edge of my seat enjoying the delicious sense of foreboding the author gives his reader. Then there were the other ‘less familiar to me’ genres. In places it felt a little bit fantasy (cards on the table: I know nothing about fantasy so perhaps I’m mistaken) and it was hard to miss the sci-fi aspect of the novel. But no matter what The Disciple is, when it comes to labelling, it was a fantastic book and I savoured every second I had with it.

I’m a little bit in love with the main character, Edward Schwinn. Having faced tragedy he has turned his back on the world. But when his moment comes, he steps up to the plate and takes the responsibility laid before him without question or doubt. I think if you look beyond everything else this book, at its heart, has a strong message. You don’t need the same blood running through your veins to be a good parent. I loved Edward’s relationship with the child, Piper. The reader watches it grow over the course of 16 years and it was a truly beautiful thing to witness. I also adored Piper who I think will stay with me for some time to come. There are a number of other fascinating and brilliant characters who leap off the page at the reader (Jolyon in particular). It’s really quite something!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. I thoroughly enjoyed The Disciple and having checked my bookshelf, I was delighted to find I have The Silenced by the same author on my TBR. This felt a different read for me and it just goes to show that you should step out of your comfort zone every now and then (although I wasn’t aware I would be doing that when I started it, so…..🤷). I wrote six pages of notes whilst reading The Disciple. There’s a lot to take in but I was totally immersed in the story from beginning to end. The Disciple is something very special which had me crying big ugly tears at points. Days later I sit here typing this review and I’m missing the characters. I want to return to the story. I loved it and I think you should read it. Highly recommended.

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

The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones was published in the UK by Headline Books on 6th October 2016 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

Stephen Lloyd JonesStephen Lloyd Jones grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, and studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons, a mad cockapoo and far too many books. He’s the author of The String Diaries, Written in the Blood, The Disciple and The Silenced.

Calling all crime, thriller and dystopian fiction writers – PM Books want to hear from YOU #SubmissionCall @PMBooksHHB @HhouseBooks #PMBooks #WritingCommunity #amwriting #damppebbles

Hello and welcome to the blog on this sunny Thursday. I have something a little different to share with you today, which I’m really excited about. One of my favourite publishers – Holland House Books – are starting a Kindle-first crime, thriller and dystopian imprint called PM BOOKS and they are looking for established and aspiring writers to submit their work. Is that you? If so, read on….

PM Books are a Kindle-First imprint of Holland House Books that specialises in crime, thriller and dystopian fiction. Phaidra Robinson and Mia Skevington set up PM Books in April 2020 in order to pursue their respective loves of true crime and detective fiction. Our background of Literary Fiction at Holland House Books means that we bring an expectation of and experience in producing high quality books to these genres. An inaugural imprint, this is the time for authors to submit their work for the chance to be one of our founding book releases.

Doesn’t that sound exciting? Do you have a manuscript languishing unloved in a drawer? Have you recently written the two most exciting words in the world…THE END? Are you ready to get your writing into readers’ hands? Then here’s everything you need to know to submit your book to PM Books:

We are looking for most types of crime and thriller fiction, from the classic English whodunit through to police procedurals, or classic noir through to mind-bending psychological thrillers. Maybe you want to introduce us to a dystopian future. We want well-written, satisfying work – a good twist and convincing characters are the ways to our hearts. It may be cosy and comfortable or dark and disturbing… or something completely different.

If you have a completed novel or novella which you believe may fit, then send us:

1) The first fifty pages of your work.
2) A synopsis of your work (maximum two pages).
3) A covering letter with a brief overview – we do NOT need you to do a brilliant ‘pitch’ or the kind of blurb which would go on the back of the book. The basic story, main character(s) and the general themes is all we need.

These documents should be Word Documents, size 12 in a standard font, with a line spacing of 1.5.

Please email us at pmbooks@hhousebooks.com and address them to the Editor Phaidra Robinson.

The road to publication beckons and I really hope you’re as excited as I am about this brilliant opportunity.

You can contact PM Books by email on pmbooks@hhousebooks.com, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram and via their website: https://pmbooks0.wixsite.com/pmbooks/. Good luck and I hope to be reading your book very soon!

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