#BookReview: Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi @TitanBooks #Ghostwritten #damppebbles

Four brand-new horror novellas from “a modern-day Algernon Blackwood” all about books, stories, manuscripts – the written word has never had sharper teeth…

BOOKS CAN BE DEADLY

From the bestselling author of Come with Me, Four standalone horror novellas set in a shared universe!

In The Skin of Her Teeth, a cursed novel drives people to their deaths.

A delivery job turns deadly in The Dark Brothers’ Last Ride.

In This Book Belongs to Olo, a lonely child has dangerous control over an usual pop-up book.

A choose-your-own adventure game spirals into an uncanny reality in The Story.

Full of creepy, page-turning suspense, these collected novellas are perfect for fans of Paul Tremblay, Stephen King and Joe Hill.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi. Ghostwritten is published by Titan Books today (that’s Tuesday 4th October 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Ghostwritten but that has in no way influenced my review.

Ronald Malfi has quickly become an author whose books I pick up without a moment’s hesitation. I don’t always bother to read the blurb, Malfi’s name alone is enough to convince me I have to read the book. In the past I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the nightmarish worlds he creates and the poor souls he subjects to endless, unimaginable terrors within those worlds. And on that note, it would be a travesty for me to continue without mentioning the exquisite Come With Me and the sublime Black Mouth.

Ghostwritten is the latest chilling publication from this very talented author but it’s a little different to the previous full-length novels. Ghostwritten is a collection of four novellas, all based within the same world with clever links between them, all about writing and the written word. Now anyone who knows me knows I love books about books (show me an avid reader who doesn’t!) so I was seriously excited about making a start on this collection. My expectations were high, and I can tell you now that Ghostwritten delivered on every single count!

The four novellas within this collection are The Skin of Her Teeth, The Dark Brother’s Last Ride, This Book Belongs to Olo and The Story. It’s virtually impossible to select a favourite as all four stories are very different. Alone they all stand tall but together, side by side, with the clever connections the author has threaded through each novella, they form a highly compelling reading experience which I savoured every dark and disturbing moment of. I’ve found with this author’s books in the past that I come to care for the main character over time. I was a little concerned that I would feel that aspect was missing in the shortened novella form and in all honesty, it was. But that was because there are very few characters with any redeeming features in the four stories. However, in what I’m coming to see as ‘trademark Malfi style’, they’re all solid, believable, very well-written creations put in terrifying and often unnatural situations. I was engrossed, I was agog, and I was lost in the storytelling.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Ghostwritten is a thoroughly gripping, highly unsettling read packed full of suspense and tension. The take home message for me was that books are powerful and in the wrong hands, or with a sprinkle of the supernatural, can cause death, destruction and untold devastation. The pen most certainly is mightier than the sword. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! There is a lot going on in Ghostwritten with every novella feeling deserving of its place in the collection. I loved the cursed novels, the creepy kids, the brotherly bond and how fiction becomes a dark and twisted reality. And as a side note, the choose-your-own-adventure style structure featured in the last story is something I strongly believe we need back in our lives! All in all, this is a well-plotted, beautifully written collection of disturbing stories which, like several of its predecessors, has left its mark on me (nothing to do with Tommy Drake, that would be a terrifying thing!). I’m a little obsessed with Malfi’s novels and I cannot wait to see what the author has in store for his readers next. I’m sure it will be creepy as hell and impossible to put down! Highly recommended.

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

Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi was published in the UK by Titan Books on 4th October 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Ronald Damien MalfiRonald Malfi is the award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and his novel Floating Staircase was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland and tweets at @RonaldMalfi

#BookReview: A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks #ASliverofDarkness #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“A creak of the floorboard, a shiver down your spine, the feeling that you’re not alone . . .
_________

Join a group of survivors who wash up on a deserted island only to make a horrifying discovery.

Meet a cold-hearted killer who befriends a strange young girl at a motorway service station.

Travel along eerie country lanes in a world gone dark, enter a block of flats with the most monstrous of occupants and accompany a ruthless estate agent on a house sale that goes apocalyptically wrong.
These eleven twisted tales of the macabre from the bestselling author of The Chalk Man and The Burning Girls are your perfect companions as the nights draw in . . .
If you’re brave enough.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor. A Sliver of Darkness is published by Penguin Michael Joseph today (that’s Thursday 29th September 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of A Sliver of Darkness but that has in no way influenced my review.

C.J. Tudor has fast become one of my ‘must read, everything stops for them’ authors. Her blend of crime and creepy is a wonderful thing which I can guarantee I will always enjoy. When I discovered that Tudor was about to publish a collection of spine-tingling short stories I, of course, jumped at the chance to read it. I thoroughly enjoy the short, sharp, intensity of a crime or horror short story collection but find I only read one or two collections a year, making them a real treat! A Sliver of Darkness delivered on every count. Not only did I get to indulge my love of short stories, but I got to read a collection penned by one of my favourite authors, one of THE most exciting writers out there at the moment.

But C.J. Tudor, like the rest of us, is only human, so A Sliver of Darkness starts with a very honest, very heartfelt explanation as to why the author and her publisher are opting to release a short story collection in 2022 rather than a full-length novel. My heart really went out to Tudor and I appreciated the honesty in her opening introduction.

A Sliver of Darkness is a collection of eleven twisted, chilling and twisty stories, each one worthy of its place in the novel. It’s all killer and no filler, that’s for sure. Each story is preceded with a short introduction from the author giving a little background or a fascinating insight into the inspiration behind the piece. One of the things I enjoy the most about Tudor’s writing is that there is always a completely unexpected, jaw dropping twist to the tale. I was a little concerned that that wouldn’t be achievable in short story form, but my concerns weren’t necessary. Each and every story delivers. Each and every story sings with Tudor’s trademark thrilling style and I loved how dark and addictive it was.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. You can’t go wrong with a C.J. Tudor novel or short story collection, and I cannot wait to read The Drift when it is published in the New Year. My favourite stories were End of the Liner which is set on a cruise ship. Leila, a woman approaching her 75th birthday, reflects on times gone by and those she has lost. When a close friend opens Leila’s eyes to the reality of their situation, Leila isn’t sure she’s ready to face it head on. But is the alternative really any better? I loved how sinister this story was. The presence of the cruise ship’s ‘always happy, always smiling’ characters throughout, there to keep a watchful eye on the kids….and the adults…gave the story a chilling, creepy edge. The utter hopelessness the author conveys to the reader is palpable. I felt my heart sink to the floor for the characters. I also really enjoyed The Completion which stars Dan Ransom, a brash and egotistical estate agent who thinks he’s God’s gift to women and selling houses. He’s on the brink on completing the biggest sale of his career but his client has a bit of a reputation. Only Dan doesn’t know the half of it… This story was so dark and twisted, it took me places I never expected to go and probably never want to go again! Brilliant storytelling as usual from the author. But my favourite of the entire collection was Final Course. A group of old college friends gather in a manor house following the apocalypse. Harry, the privileged host, has invited ‘the Infamous Five’ back together one last time before the end of the world comes a-knocking. Tom and his young daughter, Millie, join Alex, Michael and Josh at Berskow Manor for one last terrifying, unforgettable night. This story gave me goosebumps and since reading it (a few weeks ago) I’ve been unable to get it out of my head. Eerie, unsettling and seriously dark, it was the cherry on top of a fantastic collection of well-penned stories. All in all, I loved A Sliver of Darkness. I hope Tudor publishes more short story collections in-between her full-length novels in the future because this is the best, most exciting collection I have read to date. If you’re a fan of the dark and dastardly, if you’re a fan of the author then please make sure you pick up a copy of this unsettling but utterly compelling book. You won’t regret it! Highly recommended.

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

A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 29th September 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

C. J. Tudor lives in Sussex, England with her partner and daughter.

Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voiceover and dog-walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.

#BookReview: The Watchers by A.M. Shine @AriesFiction @HoZ_Books #TheWatchers #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“You can’t see them. But they can see you.

This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams.

Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.

Afraid and trapped among strangers, Mina is desperate for answers. Who are the Watchers and why are these creatures keeping them imprisoned, keen to watch their every move?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Watchers by A.M. Shine. The Watchers was published by Aries Fiction on 12th May 2022 and is available in all formats. I was very keen to read this book. So much so that I made it part of two different reading challenges to ensure I got to it – 12 Books in 12 Months and 20 Books of Summer 2022. The Watchers is the fifth book I’ve read as part of 12 books and the eighth book I’ve read as part of 20 books of Summer 2022 (yes, I am very behind with 20 books this year! 😬).

When Mina is promised a couple of hundred euro by a bloke in the pub for delivering a Golden Conure to a collector in Connemara, she finds it hard to refuse. But the promised easy drive, along with the draw of easy money starts to look a lot like hard work when her car breaks down at the edge of a forest. Armed with the bird and little else, Mina sets out to find a mechanic to get her back on the road. The first person she sees however is a woman who screams at her to take shelter. Because this forest isn’t on any map and all cars that approach the area break down at the treeline. The woods and the night belong to the watchers. And now so does Mina….

The Watchers is a beautifully written horror novel which will send shivers down your spine and make you think twice before turning the light out. With shades of the epic Bird Box, this creepy and claustrophobic story gets under the readers skin. Mina and her fellow captives are watched like animals in a zoo on a nightly basis. They’re starved of sleep by the ever present light which remains on during the hours of darkness, whilst being subjected to the most terrifying screams as the creatures try to scratch and claw their way through the glass wall. Escape from the creatures is impossible. The trek out of the forest too vast to conquer within the hours of daylight. The risk of failure too terrifying to contemplate. The tension is perfectly pitched, the eeriness is sublimely written and the sense of desperation from the characters was palpable.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Watchers is a beautifully written classic horror novel with a gothic feel and poetic prose which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the tension, the suspense and how utterly unnerving I found the story. I was drawn to this book thanks to several factors. Two of the main reasons being the gorgeous cover and the incredible reviews from fellow bloggers and reviewers. The hype is real. A stunning, creepy setting, eerie creatures to make your skin crawl, superb characters who the reader really gets the measure of. And a shocking, well-penned twist which left me reeling. It’s a stunning debut from an author to watch and I cannot wait to get my mitts on a copy of the author’s next book, The Creeper, when it publishes in September.

The Watchers by A.M. Shine was published in the UK by Aries Fiction on 12th May 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |


A.M. ShineA. M. Shine is an author of Literary Horror from the west of Ireland. It was there that at a young age he discovered a passion for classic horror stories, and where he received his Masters in history, before ultimately sharpening his quill to pursue a life devoted to all things literary and macabre. His writing is inspired by the trinity of horror, history, and superstition, and he has tormented, toyed with, and tortured more characters than he will ever confess to.

Owing to a fascination with the works of Edgar Allan Poe and his ilk, A. M. Shine’s earlier writings were Gothic in their style and imagination. When his focus turned to novels he refined his craft as an author of Irish horror – stories influenced by his country’s culture, landscape, and language, but which draw their dark atmosphere and eloquence from the Gothic canon of his past.

#BookReview: Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi @TitanBooks #BlackMouth #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“A group of friends return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they first stumbled on as teenagers in this mesmerising odyssey of terror.
An atmospheric, haunting page-turner from the bestselling author of Come with Me

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi. Black Mouth is published by Titan Books today (that’s Tuesday 19th July 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of Black Mouth but that has in no way influenced my review.

One of my standout books from 2021 was Malfi’s beautifully haunting Come With Me which to this day, nearly a year later, I can bring to mind with ease. I remember accurately how the book made me feel, I remember how fond I was of the lead character and how I lived the journey with him. So it goes without saying that Malfi was put straight on my ‘must read’ author list and I made a start on Black Mouth as soon as it landed with me.

Jamie Warren is a haunted man who tries to find solace at the bottom of a bottle. When he receives a call to return to his childhood home he knows there’s no way he can refuse, no matter how much he wants to. His brother needs him and Jamie is the only person Dennis has left to turn to. But the Warren’s childhood home is on the edge of a notorious area of Sutton’s Quay, dubbed by the locals as Black Mouth. The last thing anyone wanted to be was a Black Mouth kid, and Jamie and his friends paid the price on a daily basis. Rumours of hauntings and strange goings-on were rife in the area. He knows returning to his childhood home will stir up feelings he’s been trying to mask for nearly twenty years. Because something terrible happened to Jamie and his friends in the eerie Black Mouth woods, and it looks as though there’s no escape from the terror of the past…

Absolutely stunning! Once again Malfi has delivered a tale which draws the reader into the story, getting under their skin, and which features the most exquisitely written, nuanced characters. I fell head over heels in love with the author’s writing and his wholly believable creations. When I think about Jamie, Dennis, Mia and Clay I am very much reminded of the way Chris Whitaker’s characters in We Begin at the End made me feel (and WBatE is my all-time favourite book!). Which makes Black Mouth something very special indeed (and, with hindsight, I would include its predecessor, Come With Me, in the same category – they’re both exceptional books). Told in the past and the present this absorbing story of childhood trauma and the scars it leaves behind was totally unforgettable. Beautifully written, extremely unnerving and impossible to put down.

Malfi has created a perfectly unpalatable setting in the form of Black Mouth with its dark past. A prosperous mining town until the day the mine collapsed, burying the coalminers alive and taking out acres of woodland and several houses in the process. The area, little more than a crater in the earth, was renamed Black Mouth by the locals as it looked, from above, like a gaping mouth with sharp, pointy fangs. Add the mysterious ‘Magician’ whom Jamie, Mia and Clay meet when they’re eleven years old and the creep factor is ramped up tenfold! Personally magicians leave me cold (along with clowns) so I found myself even more on edge than the author probably hoped for by the situation the characters found themselves in.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Black Mouth is a captivating, emotional, yet creepy story of childhood trauma and how, as we get older, the nightmares we faced as children can still be just as frightening, the memories just as destructive. The characters are sublime, the setting was perfect and the writing is divine. Completely absorbing, totally immersive, I was addicted to this book from the moment I cracked the spine and I now feel bereft that my time with Jamie, Mia and Clay, and of course the pure delight that is Dennis, is over. I’m so excited to see what’s next for the author. You can be sure of one thing, I’ll be at the front of the queue! Highly recommended.

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

Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi was published in the UK by Titan Books on 19th July 2022 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 |

Ronald Damien MalfiRonald Malfi is the award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and his novel Floating Staircase was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland and tweets at @RonaldMalfi

#BookReview: Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield @scholasticuk #GoodGirlsDieFirst #damppebbles

“Mind games. Murder. Mayhem. How far would you go to survive the night?

Blackmail lures sixteen-year-old Ava to the derelict carnival on Portgrave Pier.

She is one of ten teenagers, all with secrets they intend to protect whatever the cost.

When fog and magic swallow the pier, the group find themselves cut off from the real world and from their morals.

As the teenagers turn on each other, Ava will have to face up to the secret that brought her to the pier and decide how far she’s willing to go to survive.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield. Good Girls Die First was published by Scholastic on 2nd July 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats.

I do love me a spot of YA horror! And this book grabbed my attention thanks to a fellow blogger’s post on Instagram (#instagrammademebuyit). As soon as I saw this book and read the blurb, I knew I had to purchase a copy. I HAD to own this book!

When Ava receives an anonymous invitation alluding to know her darkest secret and inviting her to a derelict carnival, she reluctantly heads out to discover who sent the invite and what they want. After all, Ava will do anything to protect her secret. On arrival, she is surprised to find nine other teens, all familiar faces, have received a similar invite. As the night presses in, it becomes clear that something else is at play here. The teens are in terrible danger, particularly from each other. Can Ava protect her secret or will it be the death of her…?

Good Girls Die First is a gripping, heart pounding read which I really enjoyed. I will say at this point that I am not the target audience for this book, being a YA novel, but it can be enjoyed by adults and older teens alike. I certainly appreciated the author’s writing and the way the suspense built as the situation the teens find themselves in spirals out of control. I found the first half of the book to be a slow burn of a read, where we get to meet and know the characters in more depth (there are 10 of them so it’s worth noting their names and back stories as they’re introduced – or perhaps that only applies to my fellow older readers 😂). Once the action kicks in, it doesn’t really slow down until the final word on the final page.

I absolutely loved the concept of Good Girls Die First. Books where characters are picked off one by one according to a dark, dastardly secret no one else knows, gets my vote. I enjoyed trying to work out what the secret would be and how the characters would meet their end (that sounds a bit weird but I hope you know what I mean!). Very few of the characters are likable (exactly as it should be, I feel) but you get a good feel for what makes them tick in most cases. The setting was perfectly creepy and I could picture the decaying carnival perfectly.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Good Girls Die First was a fun read, something a little different to everything else I’ve read recently, and I enjoyed it. I am keen to read more by this author. So much so, I have added their second book to my wish list and shall look forward to reading that in the future. An enjoyable supernatural thriller packed full of devastating secrets, a delicious sense of impending doom and bucket loads of tension. Recommended.

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield was published in the UK by Scholastic on 2nd July 2020 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kathryn FoxfieldKathryn Foxfield writes dark books about strange things. She blames her love of the creepy and weird on a childhood diet of Point Horror, Agatha Christie and Dr Who. She writes about characters who aren’t afraid to fight back, but wouldn’t last 5 minutes in one of her own stories. Her first book GOOD GIRLS DIE FIRST was published by Scholastic UK in 2020.

Kathryn is a reformed microbiologist, one-time popular science author, cat-servant and parent of two. She lives in rural Oxfordshire but her heart belongs to London. You can follow her on Twitter @iloveweirdbooks or visit her website kfoxfield.com

#BookReview: Scream Ride by D.I. Russell #ScreamRide #damppebbles

“Hold tight.

Debuting at Adventure Point this Halloween! From the mind of Carl Campbell, master of terror. See the dead walk the streets! Come face to face with madman Luger on Mutilation Street: The Ride! And step into our state-of-the-art ghost house…if you dare…

Comic book writer Carl Campbell is riding high. Fans can’t get enough of his books and movies featuring twisted creatures and undead killers. Adventure Point Theme Park aims to capitalize on his popularity with several rides. Carl moves his family into a nearby beach house on the West Australian coast, to oversee development and design a brand new creation for the almost completed ghost house.

But the scares appear to be sneaking out from Carl’s pages. A familiar figure watches the beach house. Grisly murders surround the family. Park workers report strange noises and bizarre accidents.

As darkness falls on the stunning beaches, and the lights of Adventure Point blink into life, it won’t just be the riders screaming in terror.

Scream Ride: A white-knuckle horror novel.

Lower your lap bars with Scream Ride, a horror novel by Shadows Award finalist D. I. Russell.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Scream Ride by D.I. Russell. Scream Ride was published on 15th April 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles you may be aware that I’m a horror fan as well as a crime fan. However, I tend to stick to slasher/serial killer books rather than venture into zombies, demons and the like. I don’t know why, just personal preference I guess (doesn’t mean I don’t read them, just that I prefer them). When I saw Scream Ride pop up on Amazon for a bargain price though, I knew I had to read it. I love the cover, the blurb pulled me in and to be honest, I read a series of horror books years ago, one of which was set at a theme park, so that also made me want to read this book.

The new owner of Adventure Point theme park is looking for something to pull in the crowds. It’s approaching Halloween so he asks event manager, David Napier, to liaise with legendary horror comic book writer and illustrator, Carl Campbell, and come up with something which will blow the Australian public away. A sure fire money-spinner, something no one has ever seen before, something unforgettable. But strange things begin to happen to Carl’s associates. As launch night approaches for the new Mutilation Street ride, the project Carl was initially brought in to oversee, things start going wrong for the park and it’s employees. Napier is attacked. He knows there is evil lurking within the grounds. But will he be able to convince his boss and Carl before it’s too late…

The first thing to say about Scream Ride is that it’s the first book in a long time which has made me squirm in disgust. I was absolutely fine throughout, except for one scene. If you’ve read the book, you may be able to guess what I’m talking about. If you don’t have a strong stomach or you’re not a regular horror reader, this may not be the book for you. Apart from that little blip (which completely grossed me out) I really enjoyed this blood-soaked, gore-drenched tale.

I found Carl Campbell oddly likeable. He’s a little bit smug about his talent, a little bit arrogant perhaps but he’s good at what he does, so why not? He certainly has a solid, devoted fan-base. I liked his back story. Carl is a widower who has remarried after the brutal death of his first wife, Chrissy. His second wife, Hannah, is only after his money and nothing else. Her relationship with Carl’s twelve year old daughter, Bethany, is strained to say the least.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes, but only if you have an iron stomach. Scream Ride is quite the page-turner. I enjoyed how the story played out. I was hoping for a lot of spilt blood and oh boy, did I get it! The ending was a big surprise – I certainly didn’t see the twist coming – but I thought it was a perfect way to end the book. It was a nice surprise to discover the book is Australian, based on my current obsession with Australian crime fiction. I’m very glad I picked this one up and will be looking out for more books by this author. Recommended.

Scream Ride by D.I. Russell was published in the UK on 15 April 2020 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 |

Australian Shadows Award finalist D.I. Russell has been featured publications such as The Zombie Feed from Apex, Pseudopod and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #43. Author of Samhane, Come Into Darkness, Critique, Mother’s Boys, The Collector and Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem, D.I. Russell is also the former vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association and was a special guest editor of Midnight Echo.

#BookReview: Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Moshe Gilula) @HodderBooks #Echo #damppebbles

“It’s One Thing to Lose Your Life
It’s Another to Lose Your Soul

When climber Nick Grevers is brought down from the mountains after a terrible accident he has lost his looks, his hopes and his climbing companion. His account of what happened on the forbidden peak of the Maudit is garbled, almost hallucinogenic. Soon it becomes apparent more than his shattered body has returned: those that treat his disfigured face begin experiencing extraordinary and disturbing psychic events that suggest that Nick has unleashed some ancient and primal menace on his ill-fated expedition.

Nick’s partner Sam Avery has a terrible choice to make. He fell in love with Nick’s youth, vitality and beauty. Now these are gone and all that is left is a haunted mummy-worse, a glimpse beneath the bandages can literally send a person insane.

Sam must decide: either to flee to America, or to take Nick on a journey back to the mountains, the very source of the curse, the little Alpine Village of Grimnetz, its soul-possesed Birds of Death and it legends of human sacrifice and, ultimately, its haunted mountain, the Maudit.

Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a Hugo Award Winner and has been hailed as the future of speculative fiction in Europe. His work combines a unique blend of popular culture and fairy-tale myth that is utterly unique. Echo follows his sensational debut English language novel, HEX.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Echo is published by Hodder & Stoughton today (that’s Thursday 3rd February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Echo but that has in no way influenced my review.

One of the most memorable books I have ever read is HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvert. I remember the storyline and the characters so clearly, despite reading it six years ago, and I recommend it to everyone and anyone who is looking for a creepy, unsettling horror novel. So you can imagine my delight when I received an advanced copy of Echo, the latest book by Olde Heuvelt to be translated into English. So much so, my planned Christmas reading was pushed aside to make room for this superbly written chilling tale.

Nick Grevers, an experienced mountaineer, is lucky to be alive following an accident which saw the death of his climbing buddy, Augustin. Nick is in a bad way, wrapped in bandages, unable to communicate verbally and horribly disfigured. Nick’s boyfriend, Sam, is horrified by the news and despite his love for Nick, feels unsure about their future together. But when a terrorist attack is carried out on the hospital Nick is in, Sam realises that his life is with Nick. But Nick’s experience on the mountain went beyond the horror to his face, near death and losing his climbing partner…

I am a huge fan of books set in an inhospitable environment, particularly those set in a mountain range. I also love books where we humans have to fight for survival against nature and everything it throws at us. Which made Echo a perfect choice for me. Echo is a rich and vivid tale of love, loss and supernatural horror which I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in. Chilling, creepy and everything you want in a spooky read, this emotional tale drew this reader in from the incredibly eerie start to the devastating finale. Reading Echo truly was an experience and one I will remember for some time to come.

It took me a while to warm to Sam. His dialogue is written very much as he would speak –  ‘coulda’, ‘hadda’ – which took a little getting used to but before long, Sam’s dialogue felt very normal and very natural and I began to feel great affection for him. To the point where, by the end of the novel, I was sad to say goodbye. Nick intrigued me no end. I wanted to know what happened to him and Augustin on Maudit, and why. Nick’s take on things is provided via his manuscript which he sends to Sam whilst he’s away in the US. Throughout the novel sections of the manuscript are provided to the reader so the gaps can be filled. The truth is slowly, gradually revealed and it made for gripping reading. The love between Nick and Sam, despite the devastation caused by the accident, is what shone through the strongest for me. It almost broke me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Echo is a beautifully written, eerie tale of all-consuming love and heart wrenching loss. It is a slow burn of a novel which I savoured over the course of several sittings. It’s not a quick read but worth every single moment you spend within its pages. I loved the way the author builds up the suspense, increasing the tension as the story moves to its climax. Olde Heuvelt has once again crafted a novel that has wormed its way under my skin. One that will stay with me for some time to come. Recommended.

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

Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Moshe Gilula) was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 3rd February 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Thomas Olde HeuveltDutch novelist Thomas Olde Heuvelt (1983) is the author of five novels and many short stories of the fantastic. His short fiction has appeared in English, Dutch and Chinese, among other languages. He won a 2015 Hugo Award for his novelette The Day the World Turned Upside Down. He has also been awarded the Harland Award for best Dutch fantasty on multiple occasions, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award.

Olde Heuvelt wrote his debut novel at the age of sixteen. He studied English language and American literature in his hometown of Nijmegen and at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Since, he has become a bestselling author in The Netherlands and Belgium. He calls Roald Dahl and Stephen King the literary heroes of his childhood, creating a love for grim and dark fiction.

HEX is Olde Heuvelt’s world wide debut. Warner Bros is currently developing a TV series based on the book.

#BookReview: The Inheritance by Gabriel Bergmoser @FaberBooks #TheInheritance #BookTwitter #damppebbles

The author of the bestselling The Hunted returns…

A young woman is hiding out in a sleepy North Queensland tourist town, trying to stay under the radar, when she stumbles across a dangerous drug cartel. Anyone else might back away, pretend they haven’t seen anything, keep quiet, but Maggie is no ordinary girl.

She has to get out of town – fast. She heads towards Melbourne, where she just might find the answers she needs: about her mother, her past and the sins of her father. With a dubious cop as her ally, the police tracking her and a dangerous biker gang on their trail, Maggie’s troubles are doubling down fast.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Inheritance by Gabriel Bergmoser. The Inheritance is published in paperback format by Faber Books today (that’s Thursday 4th November 2021) and is also available in audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of The Inheritance but that has in no way influenced my review.

I LOVED The Hunted, the first book in this gripping Australian thriller/horror series. It warmed my dark little heart on so many levels. So, without question, The Inheritance was one of my most anticipated books of the year. And oh boy, it didn’t disappoint. We’re back with kick-ass, bad-ass Maggie who has a personal mission to fulfil. Anyone who gets in her way better watch out because Maggie has been through hell and back to get to this point and she’ll do whatever it takes to discover the truth…

This is a very personal mission for Maggie and I loved finding out more about her history, what shaped her to be the determined, stop-at-nothing woman she’s become. There’s bloodshed galore, some particularly grisly moments but I loved being along for the ride as Maggie dug deeper into her family history. She comes across some particularly violent and unrelenting characters on her quest, does some pretty horrendous things to them but I couldn’t help but like her. She’s a one-woman powerhouse but I could understand where she was trying to get to.

I found it fascinating to watch as she discovered that what she believed to be one of the few good things about her childhood turned out to be not as peachy as she recalled. I was on the edge of my seat as she ran, full pelt, from her enemies (and there are a few!), having to trust people she’s not completely sure she can, leaving a trail of destruction and chaos in her wake. Wonderful stuff.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Inheritance is a gutsy, thrilling read which I devoured with glee. Maggie is a force to be reckoned with and I hope there is more to come. Despite her penchant for violence, you can’t help but warm to this very human character who just wants answers after a lifetime of misery. The Inheritance is a non-stop, adrenaline ride of a book – it would make a GREAT movie – and I hope this isn’t the last we see of this intriguing, well-written character. If you love a thrilling, female-led tale then make sure you pick this one up. I don’t think you need to have read The Hunted first as it works well as a standalone. Although, like its sequel, The Hunted is a fantastic book so why not treat yourself to both! Recommended.

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

The Inheritance by Gabriel Bergmoser was published in the UK by Faber Books on 4th November 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): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Gabriel BergmoserGabriel Bergmoser is an award-winning Melbourne-based author and playwright. He won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award in 2015, was nominated for the 2017 Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing and went on to win several awards at the 2017 VDL One Act Play Festival circuit. In 2016 his first young adult novel, Boone Shepard, was shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Prize. His first novel for adults, The Hunted (HarperCollins, Faber, 2020) is a bestseller and a film adaptation of The Hunted is currently being developed in a joint production between Stampede Ventures and Vertigo entertainment in Los Angeles.

#BookReview: Reprieve by James Han Mattson @BloomsburyBooks #Reprieve #damppebbles

“Most people didn’t make it to Cell Six, he said. Most called out the safe word – reprieve – after the first Cell. It was that intense.

When Bryan, Jaidee, Victor and Jane team up to compete at a full-contact escape room, it seems simple. Hold your nerve through six terrifying challenges; collect all the red envelopes; win a huge cash prize.

But the real horror is unfolding outside of the game, in a series of deceits and misunderstandings fuelled by obsession and prejudice. And by the end of the night, one of the contestants will be dead.

A startlingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism, and seamlessly threads together trial transcripts, evidence descriptions, and deeply layered individual narratives to present a chilling portrait of American life.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Reprieve by James Han Mattson. Reprieve was published by Bloomsbury on 5th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022. I chose to read a free eARC of Reprieve but that has in no way influenced my review.

Woah! This book. I tried so hard to resist Reprieve. I’ve fallen behind a little in my planned reading and my poor attention-hungry TBR is suffering. However, certain books, as soon as you see them, have an inexplicable hold over you. Which is exactly what happened with Reprieve. With its eye-catching cover and intriguing plot, I was hooked before I even cracked open the first page! Sadly for the rest of  my TBR, Reprieve was moved straight to the top of the pile.

John Forrester is a legend within horror circles. He is the owner of Quigley House. A full contact, ultra terrifying haunt/escape room which features six cells and a prize of $60,000 for making it to the end. The latest team to the take on the challenge have an edge though. They’re determined to claim the prize and go down in history as only the second group to win. But Quigley House has other plans…

An unsettling, unforgettable read where horrors creep around every corner. Reprieve is a book which shines a powerful light on social inequalities across modern day America. Hugely topical and quite the eye-opener, the author has created a novel which delights in making its readers feel uncomfortable, and rightly so! I couldn’t put this book down. A chilling exploration of manipulation and greed, I was drawn into the story from the outset and now feel quite bereft that it’s over. Reprieve will stay with me for some time to come though, I can tell you!

The concept the plot is built around is just my cup of tea. A horror themed escape room in an old converted house. Complete the timed challenge in each room and collect the required number of red envelopes as you go. The only thing in your way: crazed, mutilated characters – the stuff your worst nightmares are made of, gallons of fake blood and actual, real-life pain as you’re zapped by a shock wand or beaten up a bit (all within reason, of course!). If it all gets too much (and for most contestants, it does!) then call out the safe word, ‘reprieve’. But you can wave goodbye to a share of the $60,000.

The story is told from several points of view including a court transcript. The characters in the book are all well written and elicited some sort of emotion within me. I liked to see the different sides of the story, how the author used those different POVs to build up to the finale of the book. And what a tense and unnerving denouement it was!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Reprieve is a compelling, shocking story which I strongly recommend to those who don’t mind a drop of blood in their fiction. Whilst the escape room concept is a flipping marvellous one, it’s really only the device the author uses to bring everything together. Reprieve is so, so much more than its blurb. Strong characters, an atmospheric, somewhat unnerving setting and a very important take-home message. Recommended.

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

Reprieve by James Han Mattson was published in the UK by Bloomsbury on 5th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022 (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 |

James Han MattsonJames Han Mattson was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in North Dakota. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has received grants from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America and Humanities North Dakota. He has been a featured storyteller on The Moth, and has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Cape Town, the University of Maryland, the George Washington University, Murray State University, and the University of California – Berkeley. In 2009, he moved to Korea and reunited with his birth family after 30 years of separation.

He is the author of two novels: The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves and Reprieve. He is currently the fiction editor of Hyphen Magazine.

#BookReview: Come With Me by Ronald Malfi @TitanBooks @Sarah_Mather_15 #ComeWithMe #damppebbles

“Aaron Decker’s life changes one December morning when his wife Allison is killed. Haunted by her absence—and her ghost—Aaron goes through her belongings, where he finds a receipt for a motel room in another part of the country. Piloted by grief and an increasing sense of curiosity, Aaron embarks on a journey to discover what Allison had been doing in the weeks prior to her death.

Yet Aaron is unprepared to discover the dark secrets Allison kept, the death and horror that make up the tapestry of her hidden life. And with each dark secret revealed, Aaron becomes more and more consumed by his obsession to learn the terrifying truth about the woman who had been his wife, even if it puts his own life at risk.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Come With Me by Ronald Malfi. Come With Me was published by Titan Books on 20th July 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Come With Me which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sarah at Titan Books for sending me a digital copy.

I saw this book mentioned several times on social media and was instantly intrigued. Then a well respected blogger friend whose opinion I really trust said it was a BRILLIANT novel – creepy cool and hugely evocative (thanks Liz!). I didn’t need any more encouragement. That was all it took. I knew I had to read Come With Me.

Aaron Decker waves goodbye to his wife one morning never to see her alive again. Grief consumes him. He struggles to go on without Allison, the love of his life. But he knows he must move forward. Going through her belongings, he discovers a receipt for a motel miles away from home. Discovering what Allison was doing in a different part of the country whilst he, himself, was away from home becomes his one focus. But what Aaron discovers lifts the lid on Allison’s life, revealing shocking things he never knew about the woman he loved and putting him in terrible danger…

I loved Come With Me and read it in two sittings. Malfi’s writing and characters really grabbed my attention and I was loathe to put the book down for any length of time. It’s a beautifully written, haunting mystery which gave me chills. I couldn’t get enough of it. Helped by the fact that I may have fallen a little bit in love with Aaron who is the most compelling character I’ve come across in a long time. Aaron’s battle against his own grief and his quest to discover Allison’s secrets ensured I was glued to the book from start to finish. And every new discovery was followed by a sharp intake of breath. Fully immersive and completely bewitching.

Aaron’s grief is palpable – a living, breathing thing. As realisation hits, as Aaron discovers that perhaps he didn’t know his wife as well as he thought, that she was actively keeping devastating secrets from him, my heart broke for a character I had come to care about. Aaron’s travels take him across the country where he meets a strong cast of supporting characters, all of whom were fully formed and memorable, adding something significant to this unforgettable story.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Come With Me is an emotional, edgy and dark read which this reader devoured with glee. It ticked so many boxes for me and I struggled to be parted from it, needing to find out how things would turn out for Aaron. As for the ending, it blew my mind and made a book I was really enjoying hit new heady heights. A memorable story the reader can truly invest in. Perfectly pitched and expertly written. Mr Malfi, you have a new fan. Highly recommended.

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

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi was published in the UK by Titan Books on 20th July 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 |

Ronald Damien MalfiRonald Malfi is the award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and his novel Floating Staircase was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland and tweets at @RonaldMalfi