#BookReview: Kill Creek by Scott Thomas #KillCreek #damppebbles

“At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. Soon the door will be opened for the first time in decades. But something is waiting, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests…

When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Kill Creek by Scott Thomas. Kill Creek was published by Inkshares on 31st October 2017 and is available in paperback and audio formats.

Regular readers of the blog may be aware that as well as being a crime fiction fan I also love horror fiction. I tend to lean towards slasher horror but to be honest, if it’s creepy and dark there’s a good chance I’ll want to read it. Which is why when Kill Creek came onto my radar I ordered a copy straight away. There was just something about the synopsis which really appealed to me.

Sam McGarver is starting to get stressed. His agent and his publisher are putting the pressure on for his latest manuscript but if truth be told, he’s got nothing. He feels his career is floundering and he’s having to supplement his income with a teaching job. That’s when he receives a mysterious message from someone calling themselves only Wainwright. Wainwright is a content creator and owner of WrightWire, an online video streaming platform. He wants to interview Sam live on air, which is nothing new. Sam is an established horror writer with a large fan base. He receives similar requests all the time. But Wainwright wants to conduct the interview at Kill Creek, a notorious abandoned – many would say haunted – house in Kansas on Halloween night. Sam reluctantly agrees to the interview only to discover that he is not alone. Joining the party are three other famous horror writers, all with very different styles. But what on the surface looks like a cheap publicity stunt turns into something much more terrifying…

The first thing to say about Kill Creek is that, as far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem to be available in digital format so I purchased and read the paperback copy. Not something I would normally pass comment on but the paperback really is quite special in its design with cover flaps and deckled edges. I think I’ve only ever been tempted once before to mention the quality production of a novel so that singled the book out immediately.

I really liked Sam from the moment I met him. I could tell that there were secrets there, he had a dark edge to his character, which the reader isn’t made party to until much later in the book. But he came across as a nice guy, struggling with writer’s block whilst watching his marriage crumble. From very early on, I wanted Sam to succeed. I really enjoyed how the author has brought together four writers of modern day horror but they’re all so completely different in approach and character. T.C. Moore, who the reader also gets to know fairly well, writes erotic, shock-filled horror. I wanted to like her as the only female writer in the group but it was tough. However, saying that, I do believe and often say that you don’t need to like the characters in a book to enjoy their story. The other two writers I found myself comparing to actual, real life writers. I couldn’t stop myself! Daniel Slaughter writes teen horror and Sebastian Cole is the grand master of modern day horror. I wonder if you came up with the same two names there as I did! 🤭

The plot is well paced with enough intrigue to keep the reader fully in the story and reading into the small hours. In the second half of the book things really ramp up and I found myself on the edge of my seat. I felt a connection with the four authors by this point so when things start to go very wrong for them, I felt it. I wanted them to make it out alive, whether they do or not is something you’ll have to find out for yourself!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Kill Creek is an intriguing tale full of menace and suspense which I enjoyed. Fictional stories about books or writers seem to really appeal to me so I’m very glad I gave this book a go. I did find the way the author labels two of the characters a little jarring and repetitive at times (Sebastian is ‘old’, Daniel is ‘fat’) and some of the descriptions of T.C. made me feel quite uncomfortable (yes, she’s an erotic fiction writer and yes, she is not a prude by ANY stretch of the imagination but it was just a little too cringey in places). However, I did enjoy Kill Creek and would recommend it to fellow horror fans.

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas was published in the UK by Inkshares on 31st October 2017 and is available in paperback and audio 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 DepositoryGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Scott ThomasScott Thomas is the Stoker-nominated author of Kill Creek, which was selected by the American Library Association’s reader committee as the top horror book of 2017. Originally from Coffeyville, Kansas, Scott attended the University of Kansas where he earned degrees in English and Film. He has written TV movies and teleplays for various networks including Netflix, Syfy, MTV, VH1, the CW, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and ABC family. Scott was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his work on R.L. Stein’s The Haunting Hour. He lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his wife and two daughters. Violet is his second novel.

#BookReview: How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix @TitanBooks #HowtoSellaHauntedHouse #damppebbles

Your past and your family can haunt you like nothing else… A hilarious and terrifying new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Final Girl Support Group.

When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. She doesn’t want to leave her daughter with her ex and fly to Charleston. She doesn’t want to deal with her family home, stuffed to the rafters with the remnants of her father’s academic career and her mother’s lifelong obsession with puppets and dolls. She doesn’t want to learn how to live without the two people who knew and loved her best in the world.

Mostly, she doesn’t want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. But she’ll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it’ll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market.

Some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix. How to Sell a Haunted House is published by Titan Books today (that’s Tuesday 17th January 2023) and is available in hardcover and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of How to Sell a Haunted House but that has in no way influenced my review.

This time last year I was aware of horror author Grady Hendrix but I hadn’t read any of their books. And then I picked up a copy of The Final Girl Support Group and, oh boy, I was officially smitten. Now I have a collection of Grady Hendrix books on the bookshelf that I’m merrily working my way through (look out for my review of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires coming to the blog soon!). It’s safe to say the publication of a new GH book has quickly become one of my yearly reading highlights. All in the space of a few months! So it should come as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to read How to Sell a Haunted House. And I loved every creepy, phobia inducing minute of it!

Single parent, Louise, receives a call from her brother, Mark, informing her that their parents have died in a tragic accident. Louise is devastated but reluctantly packs a bag, leaves her five year old daughter, Poppy, with her ex and heads to Charleston to take control of matters. But on arrival it becomes clear to Louise that Mark is planning on doing things his own way. Including sidelining his sister at every turn. He’s planned the funeral and now all that’s left to do is clear out the family home so it can be sold to the highest bidder. Mark wants no fuss or sentimentality. But Louise feels differently. She wants to honour the memory of her parents, taking time to sort and clear their possessions. The house contains a lifetime of memories. And dolls. Dolls that seem to turn up in the most unlikely of places. As do her mother’s homemade puppets. Louise and Mark may be hoping for a quick sale but the house has a different idea altogether…

How to Sell a Haunted House is an utterly compelling, thoroughly creepy read with exquisite characterisation which I found nigh impossible to be parted from for any length of time. I was so drawn into Louise and Mark’s story. I felt desperately sorry for Louise who seemed to be overlooked in favour of her younger sibling throughout their childhood, only for adult Mark to throw his toys out of the pram at the most inappropriate moment. My blood pressure rose as Mark did everything in his power to usurp his big sister. Removing any and all power she held at a time when emotions were raw and relationships were incredibly fragile. But, of course, it’s only as the reader progresses through the book that we get to really understand these beautifully crafted siblings and see what lurks beneath the surface.

Out of all of the horror tropes one of the scariest, for me, is the creepy ass doll. Only mildly creepier is the haunted puppet. There’s not much in it really but the puppet is definitely the more sinister of the two. And How to Sell a Haunted House proves my point in abundance. Hendrix has literally created a monster. Part of me wanted to hide in the wardrobe from the malevolence of nasty little Pupkin. But I couldn’t put the book down! I was completely immersed in the horror that was happening before me and I loved every chilling moment.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. How to Sell a Haunted House is my favourite Grady Hendrix novel so far, but I don’t think you can go wrong in picking up one of this author’s books. Everything I have read to date has been thoroughly entertaining, a whole lot of fun, perfectly pitched and pretty darn memorable. I do think, at times, the pace moved a little slower than in previous books but that’s never a problem, providing the characters speak to me. And they certainly did! I was swept away by the author’s clever storytelling to a world of stuffed squirrels and invisible dogs and weirdly, I didn’t want to leave. All in all, How to Sell a Haunted House is a winner for me. I loved the characters, I loved what the author put the characters through and I loved that it was all just a little bit bonkers, in the best way possible. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of How to Sell a Haunted House. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix was published in the UK by Titan Books on 17th January 2023 and is available in hardcover 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 |

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 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.

#BookReview: Bone White by Ronald Malfi @KensingtonBooks #BoneWhite #damppebbles

“A landscape of frozen darkness punctuated by grim, gray days.
The feeling like a buzz in your teeth.

The scrape of bone on bone. . .

Paul Gallo saw the report on the news: a mass murderer leading police to his victims graves, in remote Dread s Hand, Alaska.

It’s not even a town; more like the bad memory of a town. The same bit of wilderness where his twin brother went missing a year ago. As the bodies are exhumed, Paul travels to Alaska to get closure and put his grief to rest.

But the mystery is only beginning. What Paul finds are superstitious locals who talk of the devil stealing souls, and a line of wooden crosses to keep what s in the woods from coming out. He finds no closure because no one can explain exactly what happened to Danny.

And the more he searches for answers, the more he finds himself becoming part of the mystery. . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Bone White by Ronald Malfi. Bone White was published by Kensington Publishing on 25th July 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

In the last couple of years I have become a huge fan of Ronald Malfi’s writing. So much so, the author’s latest book – Black Mouth – was one of the three books I chose for my #R3COMM3ND3D2022 post yesterday. Both Come With Me and Black Mouth are exceptional, unforgettable horror reads which I strongly recommend you pick up if you’re a fan of the genre. And if you’re a lover of short stories you won’t go wrong with Ghostwritten which is also excellent. So of course I was going to delve into this author’s back catalogue and visit a few of their earlier books. Bone White is the first of Malfi’s earlier books I have managed to get a copy of. But based on my enjoyment of this, and the author’s more recent works, it certainly won’t be the last!

When a bedraggled yet vaguely familiar face makes an unexpected appearance in the local diner one night muttering and covered in blood, the locals of Dread’s Hand are shocked. When he speaks of killing people and willingly leads detectives to the burial site, the spotlight falls on the small Alaskan town. Paul Gallo is desperate to find his twin brother Danny whose last known location was on the outskirts of Dread’s Hand. Seeing the news reports of the serial killer and watching the footage of the forensic teams excavating the burial site is too much for Paul. He packs a bag and heads straight to Alaska. But on arrival Paul discovers Dread’s Hand is like no other town. The locals are hostile and secretive, no one speaks of the horrors uncovered in the woods and he can’t help but notice the lines of crosses placed near the edge of the woodland. To find closure Paul needs to discover if his brother was one of the serial killer’s victims. But Dread’s Hand and its strange residents aren’t going to make life easy for him…

Bone White once again proves to the reader what an exceptionally talented writer Ronald Malfi is. The setting, the characters and the plot couldn’t have been any better. They were moulded and sculpted into the best versions of themselves giving the reader an unforgettable reading experience. It seems to be something this author achieves time and time again. I saw some similarities between the town in Black Mouth and Dread’s Hand. The thing that stood out the most though was how Dread’s Hand is as much a character in the story as Paul, or Detective Jill Ryerson are. It felt as though it was a living, breathing, terrifying thing which I, of course, LOVED!

The plot is well paced keeping the reader within the story and turning the pages late into the night. Although, the more I progressed into the book, the more unsure I became about reading just before bed. Paul’s story is a chilling, creepy one with a well-written sense of impending doom which had me imagining all sorts of nasties before I turned out the light!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a horror reader and you haven’t experienced Bone White then that needs to change. Paul is a such a well-crafted character that he felt real to me. I could feel his grief, his desire for answers no matter what that meant, for closure of any description. And despite the last turbulent years of their relationship, the strong brotherly bond between the twins. I loved the small town feel of the novel, the way the community turned their back on Paul and the isolation he experienced. This is another cracking novel from a favourite author of mine who excels at writing the three key elements of a novel: place, character and plot. The author really knows how to tell a riveting and compulsive story. Reading a Ronald Malfi novel is always an experience, a memorable one at that, and I don’t think as readers we can ask for anything more! Highly recommended.

Bone White by Ronald Malfi was published by Kensington Publishing on 25th July 2017 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 | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles 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: Family Business by Jonathan Sims @gollancz @orionbooks #FamilyBusiness #damppebbles

“JUST ANOTHER DEAD-END JOB.
DEATH. IT’S A DIRTY BUSINESS.

When Diya Burman’s best friend Angie dies, it feels like her own life is falling apart. Wanting a fresh start, she joins Slough & Sons – a family firm that cleans up after the recently deceased.

Old love letters. Porcelain dolls. Broken trinkets. Clearing away the remnants of other people’s lives, Diya begins to see things. Horrible things. Things that get harder and harder to write off as merely her grieving imagination. All is not as it seems with the Slough family. Why won’t they speak about their own recent loss? And who is the strange man that keeps turning up at their jobs?

If Diya’s not careful, she might just end up getting buried under the family tree. . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Family Business by Jonathan Sims. Family Business is published by Gollancz today (that’s Thursday 13th October 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Family Business but that has in no way influenced my review.

After reading Sims’s debut, Thirteen Storeys, a couple of years ago I’ve been keeping an eye out for more from this fantastic writer. There was something about Thirteen Storeys which grabbed my attention immediately, a feeling in my gut that this was most definitely an author to watch. So, when Family Business landed on my radar, I jumped at the chance to read it. Pushing my current read aside and not really bothering to read the blurb before getting stuck in. It’s a Jonathan Sims novel after all! And I’m so glad I did. Addictive, dark and unsettling, I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in Sims’s world once again.

Diya Burman’s world has fallen apart following the death of her best friend and flatmate, Angie. Diya no longer knows who she is, nor how to live her life, quitting her job and spending her days depressed and alone. When she is offered a job with Slough and Sons she reluctantly accepts, knowing that at some point she’ll need to start paying the bills. But Diya has no experience in the Slough family business, which is cleaning up after someone has died. As Diya learns the ropes, she begins to notice that some jobs are a lot more intense and upsetting than others. She notices a strange man hanging around outside where they are working, and Diya herself starts to have strange, unexplained visions. Determined to find out what’s going on she starts to dig a little deeper into the Slough family history. But the past is best left alone, and Diya had better be careful otherwise this job will be the death of her…

Family Business is a very well-written supernatural horror with bucketloads of suspense to keep the reader on their toes and turning the pages. This book felt quite different to the author’s debut in that we really get to see the bones of his characters in this latest release. Whereas the format of Thirteen Storeys only allowed for a tantalising glimpse into the characters’ lives. And oh boy, I loved the author’s characterisation. Diya Burman, in particular, felt a fully fleshed out, living, breathing person and I was fully immersed in her journey. I was willing her on, perched on the edge of my seat wondering where the author was going to take the story. I hadn’t a clue what was going to happen to Diya and the Slough family. But I was gripped and there was no way I was going to put the book down until I knew the truth!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Family Business is a well-written, compelling novel with themes of grief, the sanctity of memory and a hard look at social inequality. The book moves at a steady pace drawing the reader into the plot and enabling them to get to know the characters well before the explosive ending. There is a deeply unsettling sense throughout the book of something unstoppable heading your way. Something that can’t be explained, something you don’t really want to think about until you inevitably come face to face with it. And I loved how the author was able to achieve that palpable menace throughout, that incoming malevolence. Marvellous stuff! Family Business is a very readable, very powerful novel which drew me in and didn’t let go until the terrifying end. Dark, suspenseful and will leave the reader with lots to think about. Recommended.

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

Family Business by Jonathan Sims was published in the UK by Gollancz on 13th October 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Jonathan Sims is a writer, performer and games designer whose work primarily focuses on the macabre, the grotesque, and the gentle touch of creeping dread. He is the mind and the voice behind acclaimed horror podcast The Magnus Archives, as well as story-game design duo MacGuffin & Co., and some of your favourite nightmares. He lives in Walthamstow with the two best cats and an overwhelming backlog of books that he really should get round to.

#BookReview: The Fervor by Alma Katsu @TitanBooks #TheFervor #damppebbles

Chilling supernatural horror combining Japanese folklore with WW2 historical fiction from a multiple award-winning author.

As World War II rages on, the threat has come to the home front. In a remote corner of Idaho, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, are desperate to return home. Following Meiko’s husband’s enlistment as an air force pilot in the Pacific months prior, Meiko and Aiko were taken from their home in Seattle and sent to one of the internment camps in the Midwest. It didn’t matter that Aiko was American-born: They were Japanese, and therefore considered a threat by the American government.

Mother and daughter attempt to hold on to elements of their old life in the camp when a mysterious disease begins to spread among those interned. What starts as a minor cold quickly becomes spontaneous fits of violence and aggression, even death. And when a disconcerting team of doctors arrive, nearly more threatening than the illness itself, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and it becomes clear to them that something more sinister is afoot: a demon from the stories of Meiko’s childhood, hell-bent on infiltrating their already strange world.

Inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, THE FERVOR explores a supernatural threat beyond what anyone saw coming: the danger of demonization, a mysterious contagion, and the search to stop its spread before it’s too late.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Fervor by Alma Katsu. The Fervor is published by Titan Books today (that’s Friday 7th October 2022) and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Fervor but that has in no way influenced my review.

Alma Katsu is the author behind one of my favourite reads of 2021. The incredibly dark and atmospheric The Hunger which reimagines the journey the Donner Party took from Illinois to California in 1846. The author takes historical events, gives them a supernatural twist and presents them in a highly compelling way. I loved what Katsu did with The Hunger. So much so that I immediately purchased the author’s next book, The Deep (which I plan to read very, very soon). So when the opportunity to read The Fervor presented itself I, of course, leapt at the chance to immerse myself in this author’s world once again.

Meiko Briggs was sent by her parents from Japan to America as a young woman where she met her husband, pilot Jamie Briggs. Now America is at war with Japan and life for those with Japanese heritage, which includes Meiko and Jamie’s young daughter, Aido, has changed significantly. Whilst Jamie is off overseas fighting for his country, his wife and daughter have been moved to an internment camp where everyday life is tough. When a mystery illness starts to spread throughout the camp and internees become violent before some die a painful death, Meiko knows there is something sinister going on. Particularly when victims report seeing entities that remind her of Japanese folklore tales from her childhood. Meiko knows she and Aiko are in danger but exactly who (or what) poses the biggest threat to their lives…?

The Fervor is a well-written tale full of intrigue and suspense which I enjoyed. There is a lot for the reader to get their teeth into as the story is told from four different points of view; Meiko, her daughter Aiko, preacher Archie Mitchell, and Fran Gurstwold, a news reporter who is out to make her name with a big story. There is an ever-present sense of threat throughout the book which I thought was handled incredibly well by the author. It doesn’t really matter where the reader looks, there’s danger at every turn! But who or what poses the biggest threat? I have my theory and it doesn’t bode well for humankind. It was shocking to read how Japanese people were treated at the internment camps of the 1940s. How misinformation and fear drove people to act in the most despicable of ways. How the white supremacy groups preyed on the insecurities of average people to amass armies ready to hurt, maim and kill without a moment’s thought. The author builds an uncomfortable picture for her readers and rightly so. It should be uncomfortable; it should make us think. But most of it, we must learn from the atrocities of the past and make sure they never happen again.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Fervor is a well-written, unsettling novel full of suspense which I found uncomfortable reading at times but hard to put down. Despite being set in the 1940s during WWII it felt a very current story with overarching themes of racism and an unknown prevalent virus with no cure, at the heart of the novel. There’s no shying away from the cold, hard truth here. Katsu is a skilled writer who brings her characters and their stories to life. The lead characters were interesting and engaging throughout. I enjoyed the way in which the author tied everything together in the end, bringing the separate strands of the plot to a believable and tense conclusion. All in all, I found The Fervor to be a compelling novel with a beautifully crafted sense of threat running throughout the pages. Recommended.

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

The Fervor by Alma Katsu was published in the UK by Titan Books on 7th October 2002 and is available in paperback and audio 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.orgdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com 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: 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