#BookReview: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones @TitanBooks #MyHeartisaChainsaw #damppebbles

“A gripping, bloody tribute to classic slasher cinema, final girls and our buried ghosts, combining Friday the 13th, the uncanny mastery of Shirley Jackson, and the razor wit of the Evil Dead.

The Jordan Peele of horror fiction turns his eye to classic slasher films: Jade is one class away from graduating high-school, but that’s one class she keeps failing local history. Dragged down by her past, her father and being an outsider, she’s composing her epic essay series to save her high-school diploma.

Jade’s topic? The unifying theory of slasher films. In her rapidly gentrifying rural lake town, Jade sees the pattern in recent events that only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror cinema could have prepared her for. And with the arrival of the Final Girl, Letha Mondragon, she’s convinced an irreversible sequence of events has been set into motion.

As tourists start to go missing, and the tension grows between her community and the celebrity newcomers building their mansions the other side of the Indian Lake, Jade prepares for the killer to rise. She dives deep into the town’s history, the tragic deaths than occurred at camp years ago, the missing tourists no one is even sure exist, and the murders starting to happen, searching for the answer.

As the small and peaceful town heads towards catastrophe, it all must come to a head on 4th July, when the town all gathers on the water, where luxury yachts compete with canoes and inflatables, and the final showdown between rich and poor, past and present, townsfolk and celebrities, slasher and Final Girl.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones. My Heart is a Chainsaw was published by Titan Books on 7th September 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of My Heart is a Chainsaw but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am addicted to slasher fiction. There’s no two ways about it. I am well and truly hooked on the idea, the concept and the execution (🤭). Books featuring a crazed serial killer, of this realm or…elsewhere…will always get my full, undivided attention. So my heart soared when I saw the latest book by Stephen Graham Jones. My Heart is a Chainsaw was an absolute must read for me, particularly as I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Final Girl by the same author (and I have The Only Good Indians waiting patiently for me on the TBR!).

Jade Daniels is the horror chick. She lives, breathes, dreams in horror movies. She loves all horror but slashers are her true obsession. Her knowledge is beyond encyclopaedic and it consumes every moment of her life. Which equips her perfectly to notice things happening in her small lake-side town that others may miss. Things which confirm, to Jade at least, that catastrophe is heading straight to Proofrock in the form of a slasher. Now all Jade has to do is convince everyone else before it’s too late…

You know when you read a book and it’s nothing like you expected it to be? That’s sort of where I am with My Heart is a Chainsaw. I really enjoyed the story, I adored Jade, the writing was powerful, chock-full of emotion and multi-layered. But I found it a little slow going to start with, which of course, isn’t a bad thing. Just unexpected having read another of the author’s books (which is actually a crazy thing for me to say as who writes the same book twice? That would be barmy!). My Heart is a Chainsaw is a true work of art though and it’s well worth picking up. I can’t imagine how long it took the author to write this novel – the care and attention, the precision, it all shines through.

Jade is a stones throw from failing high school so she composes a series of essays for her state history teacher, Mr Holmes, in return for extra credit. The subject matter is, of course, slasher movies which she intricately examines, pulling themes and explaining theories to her beleaguered teacher who is on the brink of retirement. These essays are a wonderful addition, informative and enlightening in their content. They run alongside Jade’s day to day dealings with the other residents of Proofrock and her investigation into what she believes is a certainty, the forthcoming slasher. I enjoyed the time I spent with Jade. I couldn’t help but like her. She’s the unpopular kid, the odd one who everyone keeps at a distance.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. My Heart is a Chainsaw is a beautifully written love letter to the slasher genre which I thoroughly enjoyed. I appreciated that the author has given his readers a chance to get to know Jade properly so you’re fully invested in the character as you approach the end of the book. The ending was sublime. Meticulous and so cleverly staged that I was fully in the moment, right by Jade’s side. I feel a little bereft now it’s all over but Jade will stay with me for some time to come. Gutsy, gruesome and utterly captivating. Emotional and really quite haunting. Recommended.

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

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones was published in the UK by Titan Books on 7th September 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Stephen Graham JonesBorn and raised in Texas. In Boulder, Colorado now. Forty-nine. Blackfeet. Into werewolves and slashers, zombies and vampires, haunted houses and good stories. Would wear pirate shirts a lot if I could find them. And probably carry some kind of sword.

#BookReview: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix @TitanBooks #TheFinalGirlSupportGroup #damppebbles

“In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix. The Final Girl Support Group is published today (that’s Tuesday 13th July 2021) by Titan Books and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Final Girl Support Group but that has in no way influenced my review,

The Final Girl Support Group, with its perfect cover, intriguing blurb and kick-ass concept, gave me palpitations at first sight. Everything about it screamed my name and cried out to be read. I just had to get my mitts on this book. And I’m so very, very glad I did! I completely ignored the rest of my TBR. Forgot about my planned schedule and ignored all other commitments until I closed the final page. If you follow damppebbles regularly you’ll know that I love blood-soaked slasher novels and have a bit of a girl crush on the final girl trope, so this book ticked so many boxes for me as a reader.

Six legendary final girls meet in secret with their therapist to talk over their experiences and support each other. Yes, there are disagreements, fallings out and a lot of bickering, but the women have something which bonds them together and Lynnette, in particular, finds comfort in the meetings. Until one day, one of the women fails to attend group. Before long, it becomes clear that their secret meetings are no longer a secret. Lynnette is convinced someone has their sights set on the group. Now, all she has to do is convince the others and make it, in one piece, to the end…

I loved reading The Final Girl Support Group. It was a full-on, high energy read which I devoured in no time at all because I found it very hard to put down. I was a little bit smitten with Lynnette who, because of her experiences, is a smidge traumatised (obsessive, paranoid…goes without saying really!). I also found her a little frustrating at times but that only added to my enthusiasm. The other ‘girls’ are an eclectic, flawed mix and I thoroughly enjoyed finding out their stories. These aren’t your normal, every-day final girls though. These six (there should be seven but no one mentions Chrissy…) are the most famous final girls in America and for good reason. I won’t reveal anymore. You’ll need to read the book to find out why but I loved all of the detail Hendrix puts into each character. They’re all beautifully drawn, all different and unique in their own ways, they would be strangers in a different life, but the bond held between these woman is strong. That connection, that duty to each other, was what I loved most about the book.

The Final Girl Support Group has a totally absorbing, relentless pace to it which I adored. I was completely invested in the story and the characters from the moment I started reading. I was able to guess one aspect of the plot but I still savoured every minute I spent with this book. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all because there was always more to come, more fantastically placed thrills and spills to make me keep turning those pages late into the night.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Final Girl Support Group was one helluva ride which I devoured quickly because I couldn’t bear to be parted from it for very long. I’ve not read a book by Grady Hendrix before but it’s clear this is a writer who knows how to tell a good story. I was hooked (😂 poor choice of word in a way, perhaps…) into Lynnette’s monstrous world and I didn’t want to leave. Absolutely flipping bonkers but so, so good! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Final Girl Support Group. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix was published in the UK by Titan Books on 13th July 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Grady HendrixGrady Hendrix is the author of the novels Horrorstör, about a haunted IKEA, and My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which is like Beaches meets The Exorcist, only it’s set in the Eighties. He’s also the author of We Sold Our SoulsThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, and the upcoming (July 13!) Final Girl Support Group!

He’s also the jerk behind the Stoker award-winning Paperbacks from Hell, a history of the 70’s and 80’s horror paperback boom, which contains more information about Nazi leprechauns, killer babies, and evil cats than you probably need.

And he’s the screenwriter behind Mohawk, which is probably the only horror movie about the War of 1812 and Satanic Panic.

You can listen to free, amazing, and did I mention free podcasts

#BookReview: The Hunger by Alma Katsu @TransworldBooks #TheHunger #damppebbles

“After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner’s decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the brink of madness, the ill-fated group struggles to survive and minor disagreements turn into violent confrontations. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements, to something more primal and far more deadly.

Based on the true story of The Donner Party, The Hunger is an eerie, shiver-inducing exploration of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Hunger by Alma Katsu. The Hunger was published by Bantam Press on 21st February 2019 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Hunger but that has in no way influenced my review.

This book has been sat on my shelf for far too long. I’ve been wanting to read it for such a long time so when a break in my planned reading came up, I grabbed the chance. And I loved it. The author’s compelling twist on a documented historical event was both intriguing and chilling.

It’s 1846  and a group of pioneers, many who are strangers, make the gruelling trek from Springfield, Illinois to California. Loaded with only the possessions they could carry, they start their brave trek across America. Tensions are high, rivalries are ever present and the fight for supremacy within the group is constant. George Donner, the group’s reigning leader, is given a choice. A crossroads. He’s warned against taking the less well-known route and told, for the sake of his party, to keep to the well-travelled path. Seasoned travellers repeatedly advise against it and warn of the dangers. But Donner decides to stick to his plan, sealing the fate of those he’s travelling with. What Donner doesn’t realise is that it’s not just the rapidly changing elements that pose a risk. There’s something else out there. Something deadly, and it has it’s sights set on the Donner Party…

I loved The Hunger. So much so, that approximately a quarter of the way through the book, bewitched by the author’s writing and completely absorbed by the story, I ordered myself a copy of Katsu’s latest book, The Deep. I loved that The Hunger is partly based on a true story but given an extra creepy twist. The story of the Donner Party is, in itself, quite harrowing but the author’s spine-tingling addition to the tale creates a piece of fiction which is both deeply unsettling and beautifully dark. I devoured it and days later, I’m still thinking about the book.

As a Brit living in the modern age (trains, planes and automobiles!), I personally struggle to get my head around the massive undertaking the Donner Party took when they left Springfield in April 1846. But thanks to Katsu’s exquisite writing, vibrant imagery and her ability to put her reader in the scene with the characters, I closed the back cover of this novel a little awestruck and feeling as though I had learnt something. Tensions run high, trust between the party is at an all-time low and the threat of the unknown was impossible to escape. As the weather closes in, as the snow drifts begin to build, I could see no escape for the party.  The claustrophobia and the periI were palpable. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Hunger is like nothing else I have read before and I can’t wait to make a start on The Deep (if it’s anything like The Hunger I know I’m going to be in for a huge treat!). I found The Hunger to be a completely engrossing and spell-binding read which I heartily recommend to horror fans. The ending was perfect and took my breath away. I adored this book and I’m kicking myself because it’s taken far too long for me to get around to reading it. Something truly special which has left its mark on me. Highly recommended.

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

The Hunger by Alma Katsu was published in the UK by Bantam Books on 21st February 2019 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 Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Alma KatsuAuthor of THE DEEP, a reimagining of the sinking of the Titanic, and THE HUNGER, a reimagining of the Donner Party’s tragic journey (Putnam);
THE TAKER, THE RECKONING and THE DESCENT (Gallery Books). The Taker was selected by ALA/Booklist as one of the top ten debut novels of 2011.

#BookReview: Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez #CampSlaughter #damppebbles

“It’s a local legend.

No one is sure if this “Camp Slaughter” place is real or not.

But a group of college kids renting out a cabin deep in the woods of Pennsylvania will soon realize the truth.

They’ll realize the danger, too.

Or rather, the cannibal out in the woods will bring the danger to them…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez. Camp Slaughter was published on 27th August 2019 and is available in paperback and digital format. It’s also available as a Kindle Unlimited download.

Camp Slaughter is so much fun. I raced through this book desperate to find out if any of the characters would make it to the end. I love sleep so it’s not often I stay up late reading (shock!) but Camp Slaughter has the ‘one more chapter’ pull which I know you, dear reader, will be familiar with. I couldn’t put it down, I just had to read one more chapter, again and again, until it was WAY past my bedtime!

Fred and his best friend, Gavin, are planning a last hurrah before they officially become adults. Gavin has organised a remote cabin in the Pennsylvanian woods for the weekend so they contact a group of friends (their local drug dealer, the girls the boys are interested in, and, unfortunately, Gavin’s fourteen year old brother, Wayne) and hit the road. Fred has a few concerns as he happened across a news article about a couple going missing from the same spot but the allure of Noelle and the opportunity to make things ‘official’ between them, along with the promise of a booze and drug-filled weekend, pushes any concerns to the back of his mind. But the group have every right to be worried. They’re not alone in the woods. There’s something else out there and it wants to join the party…

If you’re a fan of 80s slasher movies then this book is a must read. I tend to prefer slasher novels to other horror sub-genres and this is one of the best I’ve read. It starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until the end. We’re introduced to married couple, Nadine and Stephen Lang, who have booked Lakewood Cabin to get Stephen away from work for a much needed break and to spice up their dwindling marriage. On their first night they hear a strange noise which marks the start of this fast-paced and gloriously gory thrill-ride of a story. The story then fast forwards one year to our main protagonists planning their last minute getaway. All the while knowing things aren’t going to go quite to plan.

The pace doesn’t let up from start to finish, which is why I struggled to put this one down. I had to keep reading. I had to find out what was going to happen next and to whom. The setting is haunting and atmospheric allowing me to picture the deserted campsite and feel the fear the characters were experiencing. I felt oddly sympathetic at times which was peculiar, to say the least, as the characters igniting these feelings deserved no sympathy whatsoever! *shudder*

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Camp Slaughter is one of the best slasher novels I’ve read and I savoured every minute of it. The author has done a terrific job of keeping his reader on their toes by doing things you wouldn’t expect throughout the story. There are touches of the paranormal, a well-defined backstory of another of the main characters and multiple ways of killing the characters which all added up to a very well-written, very enjoyable tale of blood, guts and gore. It’s a little cheesy, yes, but that just made me love it even more! I did find the ending a little disappointing as I like a nice big ‘THE END’ which you don’t get in this book (second time that’s happened recently) but I look forward to reading more from Gomez very soon. Recommended to those with a strong stomach.

Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez was published in the UK on 27th August 2019 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 | amazon.com | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sergio GomezBorn in Mexico. Raised in the ‘States. I live in Philadelphia with my family, which includes 3 cats. I enjoy writing novels that evoke thrills, fears, and any strong emotions out of my readers. I’m an avid reader, a martial artist, and a Nintendo fanboy.

#BookReview: The Con Season by Adam Cesare #TheConSeason #damppebbles

“Horror movie starlet Clarissa Lee is beautiful, internationally known, and…completely broke.

To cap off years of questionable financial and personal decisions, Clarissa accepts an invitation to participate in a “fully immersive” fan convention. She arrives at an off-season summer camp and finds what was supposed to be a quick buck has become a real-life slasher movie.

Deep in the woods of Kentucky with a supporting cast of B-level celebrities, Clarissa must fight to survive the deadly game that the con’s organizers have rigged against her.

A demented, funny, bloody, and strangely-poignant horror novel from the acclaimed author of Tribesmen, Zero Lives Remaining, and Mercy House.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Con Season by Adam Cesare. The Con Season was published on 16th August 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. It’s also available on Kindle Unlimited which is where my copy came from.

I love horror but I’m quite particular in my choices. I prefer slasher horror with a crazed serial killer, human or otherwise, setting about a bunch of innocent and unsuspecting victims with wild abandon — rather than vampires, ghosts or ghoulies. I read Cesare’s first YA slasher, Clown in a Cornfield, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. To the point where I was keen to read more. So imagine my delight, when I saw this book grinning malevolently at me from the Kindle Unlimited library. I just couldn’t resist!

Aging horror movie star, Clarissa Lee, is no longer the first name on everyone’s lips when it comes to casting a new movie. Except, perhaps, unless you’re talking about ‘the mother role’ or *gasp* ‘the grandmother role’. She’s a regular on the convention scene but it barely brings in enough to support Clarissa’s lavish lifestyle. When she’s invited to join a ‘fully immersive’ convention, an experience labelled by the organisers as something completely different to everything else out there, she drunkenly agrees. But on arrival at the venue – a deserted summer camp deep in the Kentucky woods – everything is not as it first appears. Surrounded by fellow has-beens and wannabes, Clarissa has a fight on her hands. A fight for her life…

The Con Season is bloody marvellous, literally. It’s a high energy page-turner which I could not put down. And at just over 200 pages, there’s a heck of a lot packed into this fast and thrilling read. I love the idea behind this book. A group of desperate starlets out to earn a few easy dollars turn up to discover they’re the main event. The ‘fans’ aren’t there for autographs and selfies (well, there are selfies involved but not the kind you would expect). They’re there to see their movie heroes meet a disgusting and bloody end at the hands of their very own slasher. All controlled by a group of sick minds behind the scenes and one kidnapped film director (who else is going to work the cameras for the souvenir DVD!). This book is not for the faint hearted or the squeamish but I was hooked from beginning to disgusting end.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Con Season is a guaranteed page-turner which I think most horror fans will enjoy. OK, it’s a bit crazy and you do have to suspend your disbelief but who the heck cares? I wanted an entertaining blood-soaked read and I found it in The Con Season. I would happily pick up another book by this author based on the two I have read by him so far. Recommended.

The Con Season by Adam Cesare was published in the UK by Black T-Shirt Books on 16th August 2016 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.ukBook DepositoryGoodreads |

Adam Cesare is a New Yorker who lives in Philadelphia. He studied English and film at Boston University.

His work has been featured in numerous publications, including Shroud Magazine. His nonfiction has appeared in ParacinemaFangoria, The LA Review of Books and other venues. He also writes a monthly column for Cemetery Dance Online.

His novels and novellas are available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all other fine retailers.

You should buy some.

#BookReview: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis @PenguinUKBooks #HarrowLake #damppebbles

“Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot.

The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking Lola’s every move.

The more she discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her…”

Hello and welcome to a brand new day on damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the creepy Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis. Harrow Lake was published by Penguin in paperback, audio and digital formats on 9th July 2020. This book was impossible to resist so I treated myself to a copy and I’m so glad I did (check out the glorious yellow sprayed edges!).

Lola Nox lives in the shadow of her famous horror filmmaker father, Nolan, and her absent movie star mother, Lorelei. After a devastating event at home she’s sent to Harrow Lake, the small town her mother grew up in, to stay with her grandmother. A grandmother she’s never met before. In a town which featured in her father’s most famous film, Nightjar, the film which made Lorelei a star. On arrival she discovers everyone in Harrow Lake is obsessed with her mother and Nightjar. To the point where they hold a regular festival and parade for the tourists. There’s literally no escape! But Harrow Lake has its own secrets and as Lola starts to dig deeper, she find out about the missing girls. Who – or what – is responsible for their disappearance? And will Lola be next…?

Harrow Lake is a compulsive and chilling YA horror novel which sent shivers down my spine. It’s a modern-day take on an 80s horror movie and I enjoyed every single moment of it. Not only is Harrow Lake a creep-fest but to ratchet things up a notch it has its own town legend – Mister Jitters. The residents live in fear and carry out macabre practices such as leaving their teeth tied to the bone tree to stop Mister Jitters from wanting to get a taste of their bones (😱). It’s the stuff nightmares are made of and Ellis has told such a vivid tale that you feel at times like you’re actually living the horror alongside Lola.

I couldn’t get enough of the setting nor the characters who all stand tall. Lola was difficult to like initially but you grow to like and admire her. I was with her every step of the way (despite wishing I wasn’t at times). Lola’s grandmother made me feel uncomfortable from the first meet. She’s a closed-off, odd woman who has plenty of devastating secrets of her own. There are some pretty unlikeable, well-written characters in Harrow Lake and their strange behaviour and peculiar ways really kept me on my toes.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Harrow Lake is a very immersive, vivid tale and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the small town feel of the story, the claustrophobia and the heaps of unease the author has woven into the book. It’s a compelling YA novel which I heartily recommend to young and *erm* slightly older horror fans. I would make sure you pick up a copy soon otherwise Mister Jitters may come-a-knocking… Recommended.

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis was published in the UK by Penguin on 9th July 2020 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): | bookshop.orgamazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kat EllisKat Ellis is the author of YA novels HARROW LAKE, PURGE, BLACKFIN SKY, and BREAKER, and the novella THE TWINS OF BLACKFIN in the THREE STRIKES collection. Her next book, BURDEN FALLS, will be published in the summer of 2021.

You’ll usually find Kat up to no good on Twitter, trekking through ruins and cemeteries with her camera, or watching scary films with her husband.

#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: Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare @harperteen #ClownInACornfield #damppebbles 🤡

clown in a cornfieldIn Adam Cesare’s terrifying young adult debut, Quinn Maybrook finds herself caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress—that just may cost her life.

Quinn Maybrook and her father have moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs, to find a fresh start. But what they don’t know is that ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half. 

On one side are the adults, who are desperate to make Kettle Springs great again, and on the other are the kids, who want to have fun, make prank videos, and get out of Kettle Springs as quick as they can.

Kettle Springs is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress. It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare with you. Clown in a Cornfield was published by HarperTeen on 17th September 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I saw Clown in a Cornfield mentioned in a couple of Facebook Horror groups and it sounded right up my street so I ordered a copy without a moment’s hesitation.

I bloody hate clowns which perhaps explains why my family looked at me strangely when I ordered this book. What I do love though is a blood-soaked horror read which Clown in a Cornfield most definitely is. I was so excited to make a start on this one that I dropped everything to read it.

Quinn Maybrook is the new girl in town. Having recently lost her mother in tragic circumstances, teenager Quinn is determined to help her father settle quickly into Kettle Springs and build up his GP practice. Despite it being very different to her beloved Philadelphia, Kettle Springs looks an ‘interesting’ place to spend a year before heading off to college. Quinn quickly makes new friends but it’s hard to ignore the divide in the town. The adults don’t like the kids. The kids think the adults are trying to spoil their fun. The kids continue to rebel, pushing the limits, pulling reckless stunts and embarrassing the townsfolk every way they can. Until one fateful night when Kettle Springs’ creepy mascot – Frendo – decides to take things into his own hands…

I really liked Quinn. She felt wise beyond her years and despite the terrifying situation she found herself in, she adjusted and did what she had to do. No matter what that was, and I loved that about her. The supporting cast of characters were equally as well-written but I do admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Rust, who in my opinion stole the show on a number of gun-toting occasions.

In the first third to a half of the book the author sets the scene. The reader is given an insight into life in Kettle Springs and the root cause of much of the tension. It’s a slow build which is necessary to the story but I couldn’t help but be a little impatient, waiting for things to kick off. With hindsight, the amount of non-stop action in the second half of the book meant that the book was nicely balanced overall. If events had been full on from the get-go, I think I would have been exhausted 😂! Reading shouldn’t be exhausting, right?! The second half of Clown in a Cornfield is wonderfully intense and nerve-wracking, and I loved it. The fear was palpable and I was on the edge of my seat.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Clown in a Cornfield delivered one hell of a ride and I was with the characters every terrifying step of the way. I loved that the author didn’t really hold back (although, to contradict myself, I wish he had pushed things a smidge further in one respect). There are a number of brilliant shocks and surprises along the way which really added to the reading experience. For me, this is a book for adults and older teens. It’s a little gorier than your average YA novel and because I’m old fashioned, far too many naughty words for younger teens (who probably know more swear words than I do!). But it reminded me in a way of a series of horror novels I read in my early 20s and that made it all the more fantastic. Recommended.

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare was published in the UK by HarperTeen on 17th September 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

Adam Cesare is a New Yorker who lives in Philadelphia. He studied English and film at Boston University.

His work has been featured in numerous publications, including Shroud Magazine. His nonfiction has appeared in Paracinema, Fangoria, The LA Review of Books and other venues. He also writes a monthly column for Cemetery Dance Online.

His novels and novellas are available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all other fine retailers.

You should buy some.

#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.

#BookReview: Malorie by Josh Malerman @orionbooks #Malorie #damppebbles

malorieIn the old world there were many rules.
In the new world there is only one: don’t open your eyes.

In the seventeen years since the ‘creatures’ appeared, many people have broken that rule. Many have looked. Many have lost their minds, their lives, their loved ones.

In that time, Malorie has raised her two children – Olympia and Tom – on the run or in hiding. Now nearly teenagers, survival is no longer enough. They want freedom.

When a census-taker stops by their refuge, he is not welcome. But he leaves a list of names – of survivors building a future beyond the darkness – and on that list are two names Malorie knows.

Two names for whom she’ll break every rule, and take her children across the wilderness, in the hope of becoming a family again…”

Hello and a very warm bookish welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year with you, Malorie by Josh Malerman. Malorie was published in hardcover, audio and digital formats by Orion Books on 21st July 2020. I received a free eARC of Malorie but that has in no way influenced my review.

Malorie is the sequel to the astonishingly good Bird Box which I read last year. I loved Bird Box. Actually, I more than loved it and it’s the proud holder of the title ‘Emma’s biggest book hangover’. Nothing else on my TBR could even begin to compete with Bird Box for weeks and weeks after. If you haven’t read it, that REALLY needs to change. Which is why I was so excited about reading Malorie.

Having survived the creatures terrifying arrival, and the dawning of a brand new, frightening world, Malorie is still doing everything in her power to make sure she and her two children – Tom and Olympia – remain safe, sane and alive. They’ve followed the rules for 17 long, arduous years and survived when many others haven’t. All because of Malorie; her fear and her paranoia. But the children are teenagers now and Tom, in particular, wants to spread his wings. No teenager, no matter what terrifying world they live in, wants to listen to their mother! So when a stranger turns up at their door with news of the creatures and tales of other people’s experiences, people who lived to tell someone else their story, Tom is all ears. Malorie’s fear drives the stranger away but he leaves behind some papers. Papers which will change everything for Malorie and her children…

Before I go any further, I need to stick my neck out and say I don’t think this book will work as a standalone. I think you need to have read Bird Box, or at least watched the Netflix series (which I admit, I haven’t seen myself), before reading Malorie. Both books are set in a very different world and Bird Box gives you the base you need to enjoy and fully understand the reasons and actions of Malorie in this latest instalment. The reader really needs to understand the character and her motivations to grasp the full impact of this novel.

Before picking up this book and reading the blurb, I was nervous to find out where the author was going to take the story. Malorie and her young children were put through hell on earth in Bird Box, and then some! So I was quite relieved to find out the story had moved on a number of years and both children are now in their mid-teens with their own thoughts, feelings and fears. And although I don’t expect life in the ‘new world’ will ever be the norm (for those who were born before the creatures arrival, anyway), there is more of an understanding and acceptance of the situation. People are still opening their eyes and looking at the creatures. People are still going mad. People are still violently destroying their friends and family as a result. The creatures cannot be beaten. They are not going away. They have to be lived with, like it or not. But the characters have adjusted and I found that fascinating.

I’ve mentioned about ten times already in this review how much I love Bird Box. But Malorie felt a very different book. Did I enjoy Malorie as much as Bird Box? No, but I think that can be said for the large majority of books out there. The pace felt slower, the shocks and surprises fewer, the threat felt reduced from the first book. But what ties the books together so well (apart from the phenomenal Malorie) is the journey. I was completely immersed in the trio’s trek across Michigan. It had me on the edge of my seat waiting for something terrible to happen. And then it does…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes but I really believe you will get so much more out of it if you’re familiar with Bird Box. Malorie is a good sequel to a book I adore and I’m glad I read it. I’m glad I got to spend a little more time with an unforgettable character. But I have a feeling this may be the last we see of Malorie Walsh. The ending felt a little too neat and tidy for a continuation but we will see. Recommended.

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

Malorie by Josh Malerman was published in the UK by Orion Books on 21st July 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

josh malermanJosh Malerman is the acclaimed author of Bird Box, as well as the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band The High Strung. He lives in Michigan.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram |