#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 |

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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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#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart #OperationLargeScotch #OLS @cobaltdinosaur #damppebbles #bookreview

OLS“Fearing the Good Friday Agreement will effectively end the lifestyle his IRA terrorist cell has enjoyed for years, Michael Caldwell the leader of the 1972 Club (named after the Bloody Sunday Massacre) decides to turn his attention to targeting the UK Government economically. He launches an attack threatening to bomb the Scotch whisky industry unless the British Government pay the terrorists a £20m ransom.

Armitage Brown, Assistant Controller of MI5 is given the task of stopping the terrorist attack but is unable to get any information on the assailants as to how, where and when they are going to deploy their explosives if their demands are not met. He co-ordinates a strategy, using all the emergency services, to thwart the terrorists under the code name ‘Operation Large Scotch.’

Both the military and the intelligence services have been guilty of murderous acts going back over the previous eighteen years. John Johnston, a young Ulsterman, living thousands of miles away in South Africa, is determined to get revenge for the killing of his father in Belfast. With the assistance of Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service he releases information that will haunt both the British Military establishment and the terrorists.

Will MI5 succeed in preventing mayhem in various towns around Scotland?”

Hello! Long time, no see. Officially I’m not here. If you saw my end of year post which featured my top 10-ish books of 2019 you may remember me mentioning the fourteen reviews I had yet to write. I have good news – those fourteen reviews are now SIXTEEN reviews (which means I’ve read another two books since that post was published – good news, right?!). Yes, despite my best-laid plans I have failed. But the good news is Ryan, my guest reviewer (and husband), is keeping the damppebbles ship afloat and today he’s reviewing Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart for the blog tour. Let’s find out what he thought…

Let’s start with the big news, Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. is an easy to read thriller that pulls you in from the early chapters and flies along at a great pace. The author has been very clever in limiting the number of characters to avoid confusing side plots and making it very clear from the start who the bad guys are. I love the books where the reader gets to see what both sides are doing and how far away the police/MI5 are from solving the mystery.

You follow the story wondering how anyone on the MI5 side is going to move from being in the dark to figuring out how to progress, and you watch the dissident IRA cell plot atrocities in cunning ways. Set in Antrim, Scotland and South Africa the story moves across multiple years and locations and manages to carry real peril throughout the story.  I can do it no higher praise than say that it would not have surprised me to see “elements of this book were based on real events” in the epilogue.

Michael Caldwell, the leader of the dissident IRA cell is a main character in the book and is clearly drawn by the author. Bill Flockhart has a knack of drawing characters in just the right level of detail. He shows the human side of characters on both sides of the story, combined with a strong storyline which has led to a great book with action, emotion and suspense.

If you are looking for a book to fly through with strong characters then this is a must-consider.  I can’t wait to see if Bill Flockhart writes a second.

Ryan received a free digital copy of Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart was published in paperback and ebook formats on 11th December 2017 (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.com |

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bill-flockhart‘Operation Large Scotch’ is my first book and at my age (71) possibly my last. it reflects on my life in many respects having worked in a distillery in my early working life before digressing into financial services.

My interests are sport (especially golf, swimming and basketball, (the latter through my two sons who played at international level) and current affairs in our ever changing world.

I have always enjoyed a challenge, which producing a book has certainly proved to be, but I would recommend writing to the retired population as it certainly keeps your brain active.

Two years after publishing ‘operation large scotch’ I am delighted to release my second novel ‘She’s Not a Lovely Girl’ which is a sequel to my first book. I only hope it gives everyone the pleasure ‘O.L.S.’ did judging by the favourable reviews it received.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: 17 Church Row by James Carol @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #17ChurchRow #damppebbles

17 Church Row: We all have darker instincts . . . (Paperback)

“Three years ago, Nikki and Ethan Rhodes suffered a devastating loss when their four-year-old daughter Grace was tragically killed in a road accident. Ethan, a radio personality, escapes into work, leaving Nikki to care for their remaining child, Bella, who hasn’t spoken since that day.

Seeking a fresh start, the family moves into a revolutionary new house designed by renowned architect, Catriona Fisher. The house features a state-of-the-art security system, along with every amenity you could dream of.

For the Rhodes’ this is a chance to finally pick up the pieces and get on with their lives in a place where they feel totally safe.

But what if 17 Church Row isn’t the safe haven that they think it is?”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop (one of the first two stops!) on the 17 Church Row blog tour. 17 Church Row is the latest release from the brilliant James Carol and it will be published in paperback later this week. I received a free eARC of 17 Church Row but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of James Carol’s writing. If Mr Carol writes it, you can guarantee I’ll be reading it as soon as humanly possible. His Jefferson Winter series is absolutely sublime and his standalone novels (of which 17 Church Row is one) are all thrilling, captivating reads. If you’ve never picked up a James Carol novel then you’re really, REALLY missing out.

Nikki Rhodes took her eyes off her twin daughters for only a split second, and that was all it took for tragedy to strike. Nikki knows their lives have changed forever when she hears the screeching of tyres and sees the front door swinging wide open. Learning to rebuild their lives after the loss of Grace is the toughest thing they’ve had to face, but particularly for Bella – Grace’s twin sister – who hasn’t spoken since the accident. When Ethan suggests they move house, leaving behind the painful memories, Nikki doesn’t know what to do for the best. But radio DJ, Ethan has found the perfect house for them – 17 Church Row in Kensington. It’s the house of the future and architect, Catriona is looking to build many, many more. Having a media star like Ethan Rhodes move into her project is a gold mine. You just can’t buy that kind of publicity! 17 Church Row is a futuristic abode decked out with the latest in AI technology. The house is run by ‘Alice’ who can answer to your every whim and is always one step ahead of you. The pain of losing Grace will be with the family forever. Bella is their number one priority now and they have to do everything they can to make her life as happy and as fulfilled as possible. And there’s always the chance that this change of scene could be the catalyst to get Bella to talk again. But what if their new safe haven isn’t as safe and secure as they believe…?

If memory serves I’ve said this before: Woah! If this is the future then I’m locking myself in a library and NEVER, EVER leaving! The last time I said that it was about self-driving cars. I think it’s fair to say I feel the same about self-driving houses! Oh.My.Goodness. This futuristic thriller is one scary read and I’m quite happy in my very normal, very non-AI house – thank you very much! If you had presented 17 Church Row to be me before I read this book I would have bitten your hand off. Modern, sleek, visually stunning. Carol paints a beautiful aesthetic with his words. But I’ve read the book. You can keep your all-singing, all-dancing house!

This is an entertaining thriller and with some interesting characters. I really felt for Nikki who was punishing herself on a daily basis over her daughter’s death. To want to escape the memories but at the same time not feel able to leave them behind, what a tough decision to make. And poor little Bella broke my heart on a number of occasions. I did feel one of the characters was only part of the story to move the plot along – a bit like being a red jerseyed ensign about to embark on your first mission with Captain James T. Kirk to an alien planet. You’ve had a few lines, played a small part and now we all know you’re going to get in in the neck! It wasn’t a huge surprise for me when something questionable happened to them. The architect, Catriona, is also super creepy…yuck!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend all of James Carol’s books as they are all brilliant. If you’re in the mood for something a little bit different then this is the book for you. It’s quite terrifying to think this is how we could be living in the future. Quite an eye-opener. And yes, my Alexa is now in the bin….

I chose to read and review an eARC of 17 Church Row. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

17 Church Row by James Carol was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 14th November and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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James Carol was born in Scotland, where he spent his early years. He moved to England in the eighties and has lived there ever since. At various times he has worked as a guitarist, sound engineer, guitar tutor, journalist, and a horse riding instructor.

Broken Dolls, the first Jefferson Winter thriller, was published in 2014 and has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into twelve languages. This was followed by three other Jefferson Winter thrillers and a trilogy of novellas set during Winter’s FBI days.

James has also written three standalone thrillers. The first of these, The Killing Game was shortlisted for a CWA Ian Fleming Dagger award.

When he’s not writing, James can usually be found in his recording studio where he is currently writing and recording the first Dream Nation album.

James lives in Hertfordshire with his wife, two children, a dog and a horse.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Without Rules by Andrew Field (@AFwithoutrules) @cobaltdinosaur #WithoutRules

Without Rules cover.jpg“When a professional hitman turns up at Candy’s World to hide, China Mackie discovers her plan to flee from her abusive father has tragically backfired.

A gruesome bloodbath has left four people dead on the streets of a northern city centre on a cold wet Sunday morning.

China knows she’s next to die.

Unless she is more ruthless than everyone else.

She must improvise fast. Seduce her father’s assassin. Plead her case so he helps her escape in a fight to the death where rules don’t matter but the consequences do.”

It is my pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and my guest reviewer’s stop on the Without Rules blog blitz.  My guest reviewer, should you not be familiar with him, is my dear husband Ryan.  Having been a passionate reader when we first met, Ryan is a reluctant reader these days.  So I try and reignite his love of literature by encouraging him to occasionally guest review on the blog.  What sickens me is that he’s actually better at review writing than me! (Not reading, mind.  I am the MASTER of the house at reading!) I’m not here really, a mere figment of your imagination.  It’s all about Ryan and what he thought of Without Rules by Andrew Field…

Sometimes I don’t want to read….Now I admit that is not a usual way to start a book review and Mr Field is probably slightly worried!  But after a day of work, playing with the kids and sorting out a few things in the house I don’t really want to sit down and concentrate on a book.  Without Rules by Andrew Field is probably exactly what I have been needing on evenings like this.  A fast-paced story which sharply cuts between scenes and a story being told from multiple character viewpoints.  This is a story that sucks you in and washes over you without any undue effort from the reader.

Without Rules is unusual for me in that I didn’t really like any of the characters, there was little of your classic all good all action hero, rather we had characters with back stories which became clear throughout the story moving between hero, anti-hero and anti-anti-hero (is that a thing?).  The books main characters Jak and China are thrown together through circumstance at the start of the book, both have motives that are unclear at that stage but as the book develops we see the story unfold for both of them.  Scenes through their own eyes, as well as those of the police and others around them bring multiple story lines together as the story moves along and both have to make decisions that will yield consequences for many.

I would love to read short stories by Andrew Field as he is not afraid to take a character in an unexpected direction at a paragraphs notice. He cleverly moves your feelings towards the characters through the situations they find themselves in and your evolving understanding of their history.  Is it realistic?  Not overly but it has that Jack Reacher style adventure and exuberance to it that makes you go with it and enjoy the ride.   As the blurb says this storle y is not about rules, only consequences!

Would I recommend this book?  I would, this was everything it should be fun, absorbing with an interesting cast of characters who will continually surprise you!

4 stars

Told you. Better at writing reviews than me.  This review really makes me want to read Without Rules!

Without Rules by Andrew Field was published in the UK by Boomslang on 15th October 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

without rules

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Andrew Field new photo.jpgAndrew Field has spent most of his working life as a PR and marketing consultant helping raise the profiles of others. Now the roles are reversed as he steps into the spotlight as the author of Without Rules, a crime thriller about vulnerable people forced to do bad things to escape evil people. “Authors, by the nature of what they do, are relatively introverted. They work in isolation. Inhabit imaginary worlds of their own creation. They can spend ages staring at a computer screen bringing their characters to life. Then they have to become a different person to promote their work and market themselves. Writing is the easy part compared to the marketing, especially when crime fiction has become a very crowded marketplace.”

“From my point of view, professional PR people operate best from behind the scenes. They should never become the story otherwise you’re deflecting attention away from the messages you’re trying to communicate,” says Andrew. “The New Labour experiment, for example, was doomed the minute Tony Blair’s media guru Alistair Campbell generated his own headlines. Bragged about ‘spin’.  Believed his own hype. Ditto Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci’s 10-day tenure as the shortest-serving White House communications director in history – and his “off the record” expletive-ridden rant about his colleagues in Donald Trump’s White House.”

As a PR, Andrew memorably handled Boddingtons Bitter during its “Cream of Manchester” heyday, developing innovative sports and cultural media partnerships with newspapers and TV stations for the beer brand – but also PR’d a fashion entrepreneur who was a convicted armed bank robber and a property developer who did eighteen months prison time for blackmail. “Having a diverse range of clients keeps it interesting. They are all different but the core requirement is to be seen as a believable and trusted information source ready to take advantage of PR opportunities as and when they arise. As a novelist, you look to do exactly the same with your work and yourself.”

“The catalyst for Without Rules was a friend testifying against her father in an abuse case. Although the prosecution was successful, she can never really escape the consequences of what happened to her. She has to find a way of coping for the rest of her life while he was sentenced to two and half years.”

Andrew says crime fiction has a duty to try and educate and as well as entertain. “The memorable books are the ones you’re still thinking about 48-hours after you finished reading.”

Andrew lives, works and plays in Manchester, England, Europe, with his partner, Catherine. He has been a trade journalist in Southampton in his youth. He owned a PR agency in the nineties and early noughties and is now an independent PR, marketing and publishing consultant looking forward to the challenge of becoming the story with the publication of Without Rules.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Instagram | Andrew Field Online Book Shop |

damppebbles #BookReview: Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager @EburyPublishing #LastTimeILied #20BooksofSummer

last time i lies

“Have you ever played two truths and a lie?

It was Emma’s first summer away from home. She made friends. She played games. And she learned how to lie.

Then three of her new friends went into the woods and never returned. . .

Now, years later, Emma has been asked to go back to the newly re-opened Camp Nightingale. She thinks she’s laying old ghosts to rest but really she’s returning to the scene of a crime.

Because Emma’s innocence might be the biggest lie of all. . .

A gripping new thriller that you won’t be able to put down with a plot that will keep you guessing. If you enjoyed A. J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window, you’ll love Last Time I Lied”

Of all the books in all the world that are due to be published in 2018, THIS book was my most eagerly anticipated read. I could not wait to get my paws on Last Time I Lied. Why, you ask? Well, dear reader, it’s because Riley Sager’s debut, Final Girls, blew my mind. It was my number one book of 2017, it’s claimed a top space on my favourite books of ‘ALL TIME’ list and it left me with the biggest book hangover I have ever experienced! I loved it. Actually, I more than loved it. I became quite obsessed with it. Have you read Final Girls? No? You REALLY should…

But this isn’t a review of Final Girls. This is its follow-up and I have a confession to make. I’ve had Last Time I Lied on my NetGalley TBR since the start of the year. I bet you’ve been there. You’re so looking forward to reading a book but you’re nervous too, really flipping nervous. Will it live up to its predecessor? Am I expecting too much? (Yes.) Have my expectations been blown wildly out of proportion? (Yes.) Will I cope if the book disappoints me? (Most probably not.) You know what I’m talking about, right?

I was nervous making a start, really flipping nervous. My nerves were somewhat calmed by discovering that our lead character is called Emma (brilliant name, more Emmas are needed in books! Might have said that before). The reader discovers that Emma attended Summer Camp at the tender age of thirteen. She made friends, learnt new skills, discovered boys and suffered one of the most devastating events of her young life. Her three cabin mates; Vivian, Natalie and Allison snuck out early one morning, never to return. Traumatised well into her adult life by the events and the guilt of 15 years ago, Emma turns to art and becomes a well-known painter. Each forest scene she creates contains the three missing girls, painted over in great swathes of green and brown oil paint. Surprisingly, her latest benefactor is Mrs Francesca Harris-White, multi-millionairess and head of Nightingale Camp where the devasting events of 15 years ago happened. Harris-White is reopening the camp and wants bygones to be bygones, so invites Emma to return to Camp Nightingale as an art instructor. Emma feels she wants to put the past behind her and returning to the scene of the crime will help lay the ghosts of 15 years ago to rest. But memories run long and someone knows that Emma lied all those years ago…

Before I go any further I want to get something out of my system. I enjoyed reading Last Time I Lied, it’s a great book and it will have an army of fans singing its praises, but I’m afraid it didn’t get anywhere near close to Final Girls in my opinion. I’m so upset, so sad that I didn’t love Last Time I Lied. This is proper #bookbloggerproblems territory here, people. I feel absolutely rotten that I didn’t love this book and I’m kicking myself for missing what others have seen and loved. So much so, I am – for the first time in a LONG time – considering re-reading in the next few weeks!

It’s weird, I didn’t really relate in any way to Quincy’s story in Final Girls (but loved everything about it) and I really struggled to connect with Emma’s story. I can’t quite understand what the massive difference is between these two books for me. What I do know is this book is not Final Girls. It was never going to be Final Girls. I just realised that too late and my experience of Last Time I Lied suffered because of it (hence the planned re-read!). It’s a good read, it just doesn’t compare to its mighty predecessor.

I found the ‘whodunit’ a little obvious. There were several times when the author made me doubt myself but I always came back to the same conclusion and in the end I was right. The story moved along at an enjoyable pace and I wanted to discover what was going to happen next, but I had moments where I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading or it all seemed a little too far-fetched. There was a wonderful twist towards the end of the book that I didn’t see coming and it really satisfied my need for something a bit darker to happen. However, the author skillfully uses flashbacks again in this book to tell his protagonist’s frightening tale and create a vivid picture for the reader of their palpable fear which I couldn’t fault.

Would I recommend this book? I would. But I’d make sure you read Final Girls first as that is by far the superior book (IMHO). It’s an interesting tale, Emma intrigued me but became a little too whiny for my tastes at times. My heart was 100% with the devilishly devious Vivian and I could read about her all day long! I’m so glad I read Last Time I Lied. It was enjoyable, and I will recommend it in the future. There was a wonderful ‘horror movie’ element to Final Girls which I really missed in Last Time I Lied. It lacked a certain darkness that Final Girls had and I missed it enough for it to be a ‘thing’ for me. I’m sorry.

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

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Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager was published in the UK by Ebury Press on 12th July 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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pseudonym

Riley Sager is a pseudonym for an author who has been previously published under another name. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley is a writer, editor and graphic designer who now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Riley’s first novel, FINAL GIRLS (called “The first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King), was published in 2017 in the United States, the United Kingdom and more than twenty countries around the world.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks #20BooksofSummer #TheMarriagePact #Giveaway

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“First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes your first big mistake.

How far are you willing to go for the perfect relationship?

Newlyweds Jake and Alice are offered a mysterious wedding gift – membership of a club which promises its couples will never divorce.

Signing The Pact seems the start to a perfect marriage.

Until one of them breaks the rules.

The marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

Because The Pact is for life.

And its members will do anything to make sure no one leaves . . .”

Michelle Richmond’s The Marriage Pact has been on my bookish radar for some time now. It was mentioned as part of my #R3COMM3ND3D2017 feature where I immediately added it to the TBR. I was then lucky enough to receive a paperback copy from the lovely Dead Good team as a Valentine’s Day treat (more about that later!). And then, of course, I kept seeing some really good reviews. Bearing all of this in mind, it was a natural addition to my #20BooksofSummer challenge.

I absolutely love the concept of this book. I love it when weird, life-altering, mostly catastrophic things happen to normal, run-of-the-mill people. Just me then? Oh… Anyway, the thought of a newlywed couple suddenly being trapped in a pact with a group of controlling strangers, having to live by the rules of the group (no matter how humiliating or demeaning) and managing to break the rules without even trying was something I had to read about. I’ll admit, the plot is a little far-fetched but d’you know what? I was just after an entertaining read, something a little different to my much-loved detective fiction and that’s exactly what I got with The Marriage Pact. A highly entertaining read.

When I was able to find time to sit down and read The Marriage Pact I found it an incredibly easy read, flying through the pages in great chunks and not realising that hours had passed. I was desperate to see what awful predicament Jake and Alice were going to find themselves in and what terrifying punishment they were to be subjected to. At times I found myself feeling really quite uncomfortable; as though I was intruding on a young couple’s most personal moments. I was also irked that many of the odd punishments were meted out to Alice, the wife, where little seemed to happen in the beginning to Jake, the husband, (he doesn’t get away scot-free but I do believe Alice suffers a lot more than her husband). I’m a huge fan of a strong female lead in my novels and Alice had so much potential with her punky, free-spirited background but she never really got going in my eyes. Was she diluted because of her marriage to Jake or was the pact to blame? I guess we’ll never know

I’m afraid I really struggled with the ending of The Marriage Pact. Things were going great guns and I was engrossed in the terrible punishments The Pact were dishing out to our beleaguered couple, but then the ending happened and I had a bit of a ‘huh?’ moment. For a thriller, the ending is quite sedate and I will be totally honest here and say I was a little disappointed. I had an inkling that the story was building up to ‘that ending’ but had hoped the author would pull something utterly mesmerising and unexpected out of the bag. It’s a well-written book with a nice ending. My black heart, unfortunately, wasn’t quite satisfied with a nice ending.

Would I recommend this book? I enjoyed 90% of The Marriage Pact and it’s only because I’m a fan of the darker side of fiction that I think I was a little disappointed with the ending. I would recommend this book but to readers who maybe err towards the gentler side of thriller fiction. It’s well written with a really interesting concept (although a little far-fetched at times) but most of all, I found this book entertaining and that’s exactly what I was after. I liked it!

Three out of five stars.

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

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GIVEAWAY:
The lovely folk at Dead Good sent me a paperback copy of The Marriage Pact but I decided to read my eARC (it’s a long story which involves adjusting (or not!) to new varifocal glasses which I won’t bore you with!). So I have an unread paperback copy of The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond which I am going to give away to one lucky UK winner!

To be in with a chance all you have to do is leave a comment below. It’s that simple. The winner will be selected at random and will need to provide their postal address so I can send them their prize. The competition will close at midday on Monday 25th June 2018 and the winner will be notified shortly afterwards. There is no cash alternative. Good luck everyone!

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 14th December 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback and eBooks formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels and two award-winning story collections. Her books include the 2017 psychological thriller THE MARRIAGE PACT, which has been sold in 30 languages and was a Sunday Times bestseller in the UK; GOLDEN STATE, the critically acclaimed novel that imagines modern-day California on the brink of secession from the United States; the international bestseller THE YEAR OF FOG; and the story collection HUM, winner of the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Her novels are set in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives, and in the South, where she grew up. Michelle was born and raised in Alabama and has made her home for eighteen years in Northern California, where she lives with her husband and son.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website | Facebook | Instagram |

Author Image and Bio © http://michellerichmond.com/

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Absolution by Paul E. Hardisty (@Hardisty_Paul) @OrendaBooks #Absolution #ClaymoreStraker

absolution“It is 1997, eight months since vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker fled South Africa after his explosive testimony to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In Paris, Rania LaTour, journalist, comes home to find that her son and her husband, a celebrated human rights lawyer, have disappeared. On an isolated island off the coast of East Africa, the family that Clay has befriended is murdered as he watches.

So begins the fourth instalment in the Claymore Straker series, a breakneck journey through the darkest reaches of the human soul, as Clay and Rania fight to uncover the mystery behind the disappearances and murders, and find those responsible. Events lead them both inexorably to Egypt, where an act of the most shocking terrorist brutality will reveal not only why those they loved were sacrificed, but how they were both, indirectly, responsible.

Relentlessly pursued by those who want them dead, they must work together to uncover the truth, and to find a way to survive in a world gone crazy. At times brutal, often lyrical, but always gripping, Absolutionis a thriller that will leave you breathless and questioning the very basis of how we live and why we love.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the Absolution blog tour. Absolution is the fourth book in the Claymore Straker series written by author, Paul E. Hardisty and published by Orenda Books. I had the pleasure of reading ‘The Evolution of Fear‘, the second book in this series back in 2016; you can read that review by clicking HERE. I also took part in the blog tour for the third book, ‘Reconciliation for the Dead‘ with a rather stonking guest post.

It’s been a while since I was last acquainted with the dynamic and dangerous Claymore Straker and oh my goodness, it seems so much has happened to him, near him and because of him in the meantime! But then this is Claymore Straker we’re talking about here and he’s no ordinary man. The reader only has to wait until a mere 4% into the book before the action starts and oh boy, it is a shocker! But then I would expect nothing less from the pen of this highly descriptive and thoroughly accomplished author. One of the things I always enjoy about Paul E. Hardisty’s Straker books is that they are intelligent, well-researched works which the reader can sit back and immerse themselves in. As you’re reading you feel that you’re in safe, knowledgeable hands which only adds to the reading experience.

Chapters alternate between letters from Straker’s lover, Rania and life as it happens to Straker. The chapters which narrate Claymore’s journey are high-octane, thrill rides which leave you wondering what could possibly go wrong next. Will Claymore survive the next gun-toting militant he has the unfortunate pleasure of stumbling upon? Well, you’ll have to read the book for yourself and find out.

I loved the letters from Rania. Early on the reader discovers that Rania never intends on sending the letters to Claymore, which makes them all the more candid. A fascinating glimpse into the mind of a modern Muslim woman, and how her strong belief system supports her through difficult times, and occasionally takes her life in a direction she would rather it not go. I really felt for Rania on many levels. But above all else, her character appealed to me because I always like a kick-ass female character.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of the thriller novel then yes, absolutely! You must read this book, along with the others in the series. As far as thrillers go, this is the most detailed, intelligent and captivating series out there with a heck of a lot of heart added for good measure!

Four out of five stars.

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

Absolution by Paul E. Hardisty was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 30th May 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook format (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Paul HardistyCanadian by birth, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia with his family.

Author Links: | Twitter |

 

#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: Pressure by Betsy Reavley (@BetsyReavley) @BloodhoundBook #Pressure

Betsy Reavley - Pressure_cover_high res.jpg“When the submarine departed, none of the ten people on board knew it would turn into a nightmare.

Trapped on the sunken vessel on the bottom of the ocean and unable to escape, one of them is discovered dead. The tension escalates as the survivors realise there is a murderer among them, who is preparing to strike again and again…

With mounting desperation, people begin to turn on each other. While they struggle to identify who is responsible, each must contend with their own past, the claustrophobia and the secrets they are hiding. 

But who is who?  And which of them will be next to die? 

Below the surface, the pressure is building and time is running out…”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the Pressure blog blitz.  Pressure is the latest release from author and entrepreneur, Betsy Reavley.  I absolutely fell in love with the magnificent The Optician’s Wife, one of Reavley’s earlier releases which, if you haven’t read yet then you really should get yourself a copy!  My love for The Optician’s Wife always makes Betsy Reavley’s books something to look forward to for me.  Pressure is published today so a very happy book birthday to Betsy and the team at Bloodhound Books.

I found Pressure to be lots of fun; lots of blood-soaked, terrifying, ‘impending sense of doom’ fun.  My absolute favourite type!  Regular visitors to the blog will know that I am a sucker for crime/horror crossover books (I flipping LOVE them!).  And although this isn’t really a horror novel I had that feeling while reading, that fear in the pit of my stomach, that uncertainty and that glorious unease a good horror book can give to its reader.  What you may not know about me is that I am a terrible claustrophobic; I can’t even play ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ at my children’s birthday parties as having my eyes covered makes me panic.  If like me you tend to suffer from an intense fear of confined spaces then Pressure should probably come with a health warning.  It’s about a submarine.  Not only is it about a submarine, it’s about a submarine which fails and sinks to the ocean floor with ten people onboard.  And one of them is a murderer, slowly killing the others off, one by one.

I loved the setup of this book.  I’m a huge fan of stories where the characters are trapped, with little to no chance of escape and one sadistic soul is offing them in disturbing and unique ways.  Parts of Pressure reminded me of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None with a cast of devilish characters hiding their dastardly secrets from the rest of the world.  I spent my time reading Pressure and ATTWN not being sure who the murder was.  Reavley has done a masterful job of throwing in some very convincing red herrings along the way and boy, did I fall for them!

Each chapter is either told from a child’s perspective, told in real-time as the bodies mount on the submarine or, is one of the characters giving a brief snapshot into their background, a fleeting glimpse into their past and often the wrongs they have committed.  The chapters narrated by the child are hard-hitting and difficult to read at times.  The unknown narrator tells a tale of extreme abuse, of a mother’s hatred for their child and of a life lived very much alone.  As the child grows into a young adult the reader gets to see how this horrific abuse has contributed towards and helped cause unending damage to this young mind (nature or nurture, I’m not sure).

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It was a compelling read and just the sort of book I love to lose myself in.  Being really rather grisly in places just added to the enjoyment for me.  As I progressed towards the end I was starting to feel a sense of disappointment, I believed I had guessed what was going to happen next and it wasn’t what I would have chosen.  But I was wrong, and the ending couldn’t have been better.

Four stars out of five.

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

Pressure by Betsy Reavley was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 4th May 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Author of  The Quiet Ones, The Optician’s Wife, Frailty, Carrion, Beneath the Watery Moon and the poetry collection The Worm in the Bottle. Betsy was born in Hammersmith, London.

As a child she moved around frequently with her family, spending time in London, Provence, Tuscany, Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire.

She showed a flair for literature and writing from a young age and had a particular interest in poetry, of which she was a prolific consumer and producer.

In her early twenties she moved to Oxford, where she would eventually meet her husband. During her time in Oxford her interests turned from poetry to novels and she began to develop her own unique style of psychological thriller.

Betsy says “I believe people are at their most fascinating when they are faced by the dark side of life. This is what I like to write about.”

Betsy Reavley currently lives in London, with her husband, 2 children, dog, cat and chickens.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |