#BookReview: Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare @harperteen #ClownInACornfield #damppebbles ūü§°

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

Quinn Maybrook and her father have moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs, to find a fresh start. But what they don‚Äôt know is that ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You should buy some.

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

the discipleThey are coming…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones was published in the UK by Headline Books on 6th October 2016 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram |

#BookReview: The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser @FaberBooks #TheHunted #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the hunted“Where does the adventure end . . .
and the nightmare begin?

Frank owns a service station on a little-used highway. His granddaughter, Allie, is sent to stay with him for the summer, but they don’t talk a lot.

Simon is a dreamer and an idealist, in thrall to the romance of the open road and desperately in search of something.

Maggie is the woman who will bring them together, someone whose own personal journey will visit unimaginable terror on them all. . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fourteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser. The Hunted is published in the UK by Faber Books today (that’s 6th August 2020) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free ARC of The Hunted but that has in no way influenced my review.

From the moment I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. From the brilliantly intriguing blurb, to the cover that’s dripping blood to the PR that told me ‘It’s Jane Harper’s¬†The Dry¬†meets¬†Deliverance, a terrifying piece of horror that also hits every note in terms of character and family drama’. I’ll be honest, I was a little bit giddy to make a start on this one. And I loved it. Every terrifying, intense, blood-splattered moment of it.

Frank is hiding from his problems in a rundown Outback shack he refers to as home. He owns the only roadhouse (service station) for miles. And when in the Outback, the miles go on forever. But he’s got company for a couple of weeks. His teenage granddaughter, Allie, has come to stay. They don’t know each other so they don’t really talk. What is there to say? One day, a car pulls up outside the roadhouse with a woman slumped at the wheel. She’s bloodied, battered and in a really bad way. The woman is Maggie and with her she brings untold horror…

I bloody loved it and I couldn’t put this book down! The Hunted is a terror filled, edge of your seat whirlwind and I was completely immersed in the story from beginning to end. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles.com then you may know that characters are key for me. The characters in The Hunted are absolutely spot-on! I loved Frank who, until recently, hasn’t really been there for Allie but when the chips were down and the angry gun-wielding maniacs were at the door, he really stepped up to the plate. I won’t name my favourite character in the book in this review but it’s safe to say, I think I’m a little bit in love! Other characters were all brilliantly drawn, stood tall and had their place in this wonderful story.

I seem to be having a spell of reading books where I can’t discuss the plot for fear of giving something I shouldn’t away. If you know too much about The Hunted then I wonder if it’s as shocking and surprising. I need to tread carefully. After a fairly gentle introduction to some of the characters at the start of the book (ignoring the prologue of course!), the pace rachets up and doesn’t stop until you’ve closed the back cover. When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. I really felt for the characters, I wanted to see what terrifying move would be made next and I felt invested in their plight. The constant threat hanging over them was delicious and the tension palpable.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. I loved The Hunted and can see it making an appearance in my top 10 books of 2020. I know some readers baulk at the idea of reading a horror novel but I urge you to give this one a try. Yes, it’s bloody and a little gruesome but it’s such an enthralling, gripping, unsettling story that will worm it’s way under your skin. You don’t want to miss out on this book. An outstanding horror novel that I heartily recommend.

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

The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser was published in the UK by Faber Books on 6th August 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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about-the-author3

PictureGabriel Bergmoser is a Melbourne based author and playwright. After starting out in the youth theatre scene with his early plays¬†Windmills,¬†Life Without Me¬†and¬†Hometown, Gabriel completed his Masters of Screenwriting at the Victorian College of the Arts. He co-founded the independent production company Bitten By Productions, entering the Melbourne theatre scene with the one-act comedy¬†Reunion¬†and the futuristic¬†Babylon¬†Trilogy of noir thrillers.¬†Gabriel’s 2015 Beatles comedy¬†We Can Work It Out¬†opened to sell out shows and rave reviews ‚Äď it has also been performed in Queensland and returned to Melbourne stages for the 2018 Fringe Festival.

In 2015 he¬†won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award¬†for his pilot screenplay based on¬†Windmills¬†and was flown to the International Emmys in New York to accept. The same pilot was later nominated for the Monte Miller Award. In 2016 his first young adult novel,¬†Boone Shepard, was published by Bell Frog Books; it was later¬†shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Prize¬†the day after the sequel,¬†Boone Shepard’s American Adventure¬†was released.¬†The third book, Boone Shepard: The Silhouette and the Sacrifice, was released in 2018 and a television adaptation is currently in development with Pirate Size Productions.

His 2016 plays The Lucas Conundrum, Regression and The Critic opened to excellent reviews while his early 2017 play Springsteen sold out its entire season. His play Heroes was nominated for the 2017 Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing and went on to win several awards, including five for Best Production and three for best script, on the 2017 VDL One Act Play Festival circuit. His first musical, Moonlite (featuring original songs by Dan Nixon) was performed as part of the 2018 Midsumma Festival; it received rave reviews, sold out its entire season, and was later selected for the highly sought after Home Grown Grassroots development initiative. His 2019 play, The Trial of Dorian Gray, sold out its entire season, was extended, then sold out again. Several of his plays have been published by Australian Plays. 

In 2019 Gabriel signed a two book deal with Harper Collins, with the first, The Hunted, scheduled for publication in July 2020. The Hunted will be published in the UK by Faber. The film adaptation is currently being developed in a joint production between Stampede Ventures and Vertigo entertainment in Los Angeles, with Gabriel writing the screenplay. He has since signed a second two book deal with Harper for his YA coming of age novel The True Colour of a Little White Lie and a follow up.

Author photo and bio © https://www.gabrielbergmoser.com/

#BookReview: The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome) @JoFletcherBooks @QuercusBooks #TheHome #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the home“Once inseparable, Joel and Nina haven’t spoken in twenty years.

When Joel’s mother Monika develops dementia, he has no choice but to return to his home town. Monika needs specialist care, and that means Pineshade – which also means Joel is going to have to deal with his one-time best friend, for Nina works there.

It’s not long before Monika’s health deteriorates – she starts having violent, terrifying outbursts, and worse, she appears to know things she couldn’t possibly know. It’s almost as if she isn’t herself any more . . . but of course, that’s true of most of the residents at Pineshade.

Only Nina and Joel know Monika well enough to see the signs; only by working together can they try to find answers to the inexplicable . . .

The Home is an eerie story about love, friendship and the greatest fear of all: losing control of ourselves . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fifteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome). The Home is published by Jo Fletcher Books later this week on 6th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Home but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Home is a compelling, immersive piece of quality fiction and it absolutely broke my heart. As a contemporary horror novel it also made me very uneasy and gave me chills. It ticks all the boxes in that respect. But this isn’t a fast-paced thrill ride featuring the same old, same old we’ve all seen time and time again. Oh no. It’s a beautifully written tale featuring some of the most exquisitely drawn characters I’ve had the pleasure to meet in fiction. A very memorable read and one I relished spending time with.

Joel Edlund has made the very difficult decision to put his mother, Monika, in a nursing home specifically for people suffering from dementia. His mother, who lived on her own until a heart attack, has become a danger to herself after the onset of dementia. Joel has his own poor excuse of a life back in Stockholm and he wants to return, leaving his mother in the capable hands of the staff at Pineshade nursing home. But before he leaves he needs to pack up his mother’s house and instruct estate agents to put it on the market. He can’t escape the past as he clears out trinkets and mementoes his mother has kept over the years. Nor when he goes to visit his mother, as his ex-best friend from his teenage years, Nina, works at the home. He hoped he’d never see her again after their friendship broke down so irreparably. But during his strained visits, Joel starts to notice a distinct change in his mother. Her health is worsening, strange things are happening and she’s not the same woman who arrived at the home only a short time ago. Joel isn’t the only one to notice how strangely Monika is behaving. Nina, who used to see Monika as a second mother, is just as concerned. What has happened to make her act in such an odd way? And how does she know the deepest, darkest secrets of the staff at the home…

I always get excited about a book when the characters stand out from the page for me, and this is a wonderful example of some truly beautiful creations. The characters in The Home are everything. They broke my heart, they made me smile and they scared the bejesus out of me. I became completely involved in their day to day lives. So much so, I think I may have fallen a little bit in love with some of the residents of Pineshade. But please don’t get me wrong. This is a dark and frightening tale of losing ourselves and of losing control. Our main characters, Joel and Nina, were also very well-written and I enjoyed seeing them begin to relate to one another again after so much time apart.

This isn’t a thrilling, high-octane read but a slow meander through the very different, but fascinating, lives of a group of interesting people who all end up, for one reason or another, under the same roof. The pace suited the book perfectly and I was more than happy to lose myself for a few hours in Pineshade and Skredsby. The Swedish setting was something a little different and I lapped it up. I’m a fan of translated fiction which meant The Home gained another big tick from me!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re considering reading horror fiction for the first time I think The Home would be an excellent place to start. It’s creepy and unsettling, with bucketloads of eerie and I loved it. When I knew where the story was heading (this was quite near the end) I could tell what the final twist was going to be but that didn’t take anything away. I really enjoyed reading The Home and it’s going to stay with me for some time to come. I think I’m still a little bit in love.

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

The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome) was published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books on 6th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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I have always loved horror. As a kid, I preferred the Grimm fairytales over the Disney versions, and when I was ten years old I discovered Stephen King. I devoured his terrifying stories with much gusto (even while breaking out in stress-related hives).

The love of horror has stayed with me. Also my love of books. I write for children, teens and adults.  To me, it isn’t really that different. It’s all about characters, and what happens when ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary situations.

Author image and bio © http://matsstrandberg.com/

#BookReview: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia @JoFletcherBooks @QuercusBooks #MexicanGothic #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

mexican gothic“The acclaimed author of Gods of Jade and Shadow returns with a mesmerising feminist re-imagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

When glamorous socialite Noem√≠ Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it’s clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but her claims that her husband is poisoning her and her visions of restless ghosts seem remarkable, even for her.

Noem√≠’s chic gowns and perfect lipstick are more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing, but she immediately heads to High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside, determined to discover what is so affecting her cousin.

Tough and smart, she possesses an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noem√≠; and not of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noem√≠ digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noem√≠, mesmerised by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to leave this enigmatic house behind . . .”

Hello and welcome, bookish friends, to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my seventh 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia. Now the observant amongst you may be wondering where review number six has gone. Well, I’ll be sharing that on Thursday but seeing as it’s publication day for Mexican Gothic today (which is 30th June 2020 – happy publication day!), it seemed more fitting to share review seven before review six (that, or I’m just trying very hard to confuse myself!). I chose to read and review an eARC of Mexican Gothic but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ll be completely honest and say that I didn’t know what to expect from Mexican Gothic. I’ve read plenty of gothic novels over the years. They fit quite nicely into my love of dark fiction. But this book is billed as a historical gothic fantasy/romance and, as a reader of predominantly crime with a splash of horror on the side, this book felt a little like an unknown entity to me. I needn’t have worried. Mexican Gothic is a haunting gothic tale which played straight into my love of the horror genre, taking me on a terrifying journey into the very heart of a creepy old mansion and the sinister family who inhabit its walls.

Party girl and socialite Noem√≠ Taboada is reluctant to follow her father’s wishes and visit her recently married cousin, Catalina, at High Place – a decrepit old mansion on the outskirts of a small Mexican village. But Catalina has written such a strange letter, leaving her family in Mexico City concerned for her mental health and well being, that Noem√≠ feels she has no choice but to go — the promise of a place at University to study anthropology made by her father also helps! When Noem√≠ arrives, she meets Catalina’s strange extended family. They’re guarded. She’s an unwelcome guest in their home but she feels something is definitely wrong at High Place. The more time she spends in the house, the more concerned she grows for Catalina and the more desperate she is to leave. But the more Noem√≠ digs into the history of High Place and the Doyle family, the more frightening secrets she discovers…

I loved tenacious, fiery Noem√≠. She’s one gutsy woman who won’t be put in a box and behave as the era expects of her. She’s forthright, outspoken and determined to discover what is happening to her cousin and why Catalina reports of seeing ghosts. But getting to Catalina for any length of time is a problem as she’s closely guarded by the family and their staff. Other characters in the book (virtually all of the Doyle family actually) made me feel really uncomfortable, which I loved. I felt particular disgust for creepy old Howard Doyle, the family patriarch, his handsome yet utterly repulsive son, Virgil, and Howard’s niece, the detestable Florence. The scenes in the book between Noem√≠ and Virgil are so brilliantly written, they physically made my skin crawl. Florence’s son, Francis, faired a little better. I wanted to know what his secret was though. What was he hiding from Noem√≠.

It’s very difficult to talk about the plot of Mexican Gothic without revealing a few spoilers so I’m going to say as little as possible about it. The first half of the book, I found a touch slow. But I think that’s quite true of many gothic novels. You need time to get to know the characters and the setting and make that connection. The second half I loved and sped through the story. When the family secret is discovered, the pace really picks up and I struggled to put this book down. It’s so compelling and I was lost in the world of High Place alongside Noem√≠.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Mexican Gothic is a chilling read and one I heartily recommend. With that stunning cover, a fierce female lead and a story that takes you places you don’t expect, this is a book not to be missed. Despite my initial reservations, I’m glad I read Mexican Gothic and lost myself for a few hours in the dark and dank corridors of High Place. As settings go, it’s going to be one I remember for some time to come. Recommended.

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

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books on 30th June 2020 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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silvia moreno-garciaSilvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of Signal to Noise, named one of the best books of 2015 by BuzzFeed and more; Certain Dark Things, a Publishers Weekly top ten; The Beautiful Ones, a fantasy of manners; and the science fiction novella Prime Meridian. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Born and brought up in Mexico, she now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

 

 

#BookReview: Slash by Hunter Shea @flametreepress #Slash #damppebbles

9781787581791.jpg“Five years after Ashley King survived the infamous Resort Massacre, she‚Äôs found hanging in her basement by her fianc√©, Todd Matthews. She left behind clues as to what really happened that night, clues that may reveal the identity of the killer the press has called The Wraith. With the help of his friends, Todd goes back to the crumbling Hayden Resort, a death-tinged ruin in the Catskills Mountains.

What they find is a haunted history that’s been lying in wait for a fresh set of victims.

The Wraith is back, and he‚Äôs nothing what they expected.”

Hello bookish friends and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Slash by Hunter Shea with you today. Slash was published by Flame Tree Press on 24th October 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Slash but that has in no way influenced my review.

Holy moly, this is a cracker of a book! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may know that I love the horror genre as much as I love crime fiction! I’m particularly fond of the ’80s slasher movie’ novels and tend to turn to horror when my reading mojo ups and leaves. I asked for recommendations a few months back and the lovely Sharron at booksbehindthetitle suggested I gave Slash a go as she’d recently read it and thought it would appeal. She was 100% right. I devoured this book. Slash has everything I look for in a horror novel but with so much more dolloped on top (in a steaming, festering, bloody pile).

Ashley King was the sole survivor of the Hayden Resort Massacre five years ago. Yup, she’s a Final Girl. Todd Matthews, her fianc√©, returns home one day to find her lifeless body hanging in the basement. Heartbroken and grieving for his lost love, he returns to the site of the massacre to find out what really happened that fateful night. A serial killer named ‘The Wraith’ has always been held responsible for the murders and Todd, and his totally unprepared band of friends, want answers. But what they find living in the ruins of the Resort is a whole lot more than they ever expected….

This is Shea’s homage to slasher movies and I really enjoyed the high-stakes terror and the unashamed gore fest of Slash. But all is not what it first appears. This is the second book I’ve read by Hunter Shea – the first being Creature which is also well worth a look – but I get the feeling that Shea (and this really is just a feeling having read only two of this author’s books – don’t hate me if I’m wrong) has a very distinct style, which Slash benefits from. The story really ramped up a number of notches and was given an almighty gut pulverising twist.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. This is a blood soaked, rip roaring ride of a book and I loved every minute of it. If you’re not a fan of gore in your novels then perhaps this isn’t for you. But if you’ve got the stomach, this is one that shouldn’t be missed. It ticked so many boxes for me and I’m adding Shea’s previous books to the TBR.

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

Slash by Hunter Shea was published in the UK by Flame Tree Press on 24th October 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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hunter sheaHunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn‚Äôt just write about the paranormal ‚Äď he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter‚Äôs novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast,¬†Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. He‚Äôs a bestselling author of over 13 (lucky number!) books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he‚Äôs happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray‚Äôs Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Author photo and bio © https://huntershea.com/

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Ghoster by Jason Arnopp @orbitbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #Ghoster #damppebbles

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“Kate Collins has been ghosted.

She was supposed to be moving in with her new boyfriend Scott, but all she finds after relocating to Brighton is an empty flat. Scott has vanished. His possessions have all disappeared.

Except for his mobile phone.

Kate knows she shouldn’t hack into Scott’s phone. She shouldn’t look at his Tinder, his texts, his social media. But she can’t quite help herself.

That’s when the trouble starts. Strange, whispering phone calls from numbers she doesn’t recognise. Scratch marks on the door that she can’t explain.

And the growing feeling that she’s being watched . . .”

Hello my bookish lovelies. Welcome to damppebbles and to my stop (one of the first stops!) on the epic Ghoster blog tour. Ghoster is the latest release from Jason Arnopp and will be published in ebook tomorrow (that’s Tuesday 22nd October) and paperback on Thursday 24th October (just in time to add it to your Hallowe’en reading list!). I received a free eARC of Ghoster but that has in no way influenced my review.

Jason Arnopp is a name that has been known to me for a while. If you’re a fan of horror fiction then you can’t have missed his previous novel, The Last Days of Jack Sparks. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading it myself yet but it’s waiting patiently on my bookshelf and as soon as I have a little downtime then it’s my next book of choice. So Ghoster was my first foray into the dark mind of Mr Arnopp and what a wonderful spooky experience it was. Reading Ghoster, if anything, has made me even more keen to get stuck in.

Paramedic Kate Collins is a modern woman who is a bit ballsy, very likeable but also very lonely. She also has an addiction many of us can relate to; her phone. A world where a hundred friends are ‘there for you’ but you don’t actually know a single one of them in person. A world where accumulating ‘likes’ is everything. So much so, that you view life through the lens of your phone’s camera – rather than actually live it. Following an incident at work Kate decides to dump her smartphone and buy a basic Nokia. She also takes herself off to Wales to a digital detox retreat. It’s here she spots a familiar face. Scott is a guy she super-liked on Tinder earlier in the year. He blanked her but now he’s here! They begin chatting, find out they have lots in common and before long they’re arranging to meet again in Leeds where Kate lives. Romance slowly blossoms and a few months later Scott asks Kate to move in with him to his luxurious seafront apartment in Brighton. Kate agrees without a moment’s hesitation and moving day looms. But then Scott vanishes. He doesn’t answer Kate’s calls or her texts. Kate’s first thought is that he’s lying dead in a ditch somewhere so rushes down to Brighton with all of her worldly possessions and a moving van in tow, only to find his apartment completely bare. No Scott. None of Scott’s stuff. Apart from one thing. His phone. Against her better judgement and after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, Kate hacks into Scott’s phone. What she discovers will change her life forever…

This is a well-written, easy to devour supernatural thriller that had me turning the pages at the rate of knots. I really liked Kate but also found her utterly annoying at times. She is a little bit needy but then I think I would have completely fallen to bits a lot sooner if I were in the same situation. I loved how current Arnopp has made this story and I’m afraid I recognised myself in Kate a little – I think many people will. How often do YOU have to check your phone? Ghoster is also a stark reminder that dating in this day and age is a darn complicated business! It seems a lot has changed in the last 12 years since I first met my other half.

Once I warmed to Kate (which didn’t take long) I knew I had to see the journey through with her. I just had to know what was going on. Where the strange calls were coming from, what the blue things were and what was the cause of the strange scratch marks on the door. Her search for missing Scott takes up a large proportion of the novel and the mystery element was intriguing. I did find myself wanting Kate to quit moaning a couple of times and just get on with it. I understand that she was torn by the ethics of the situation but we all know she’s going to do it so stop questioning things and get on with it, Kate! We’re with you every step of the way! I loved the last section of the book though, particularly the diary chapters when the reader discovers a lot more about one of the characters. My heart broke. When everything is laid bare for the reader you can’t help but feel sad that things were not meant to be – because they would have been flipping awesome.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s a fun and entertaining novel which I enjoyed. Arnopp has created a book which, if you use a smartphone, will make you think long and hard about how much you use it and whether you *could* actually manage without it. I don’t think I will be putting my phone in the bin just yet though! Not until the strange whispering phone calls start anyway. I am even more excited to read The Last Days of Jack Sparks now and can certainly see why Arnopp’s books are so incredibly popular.

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp was published in the UK by Orbit Books on 24th October 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Jason Arnopp is the author of the Orbit Books novel The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, which has been described as “a magnificent millennial nightmare” (Alan Moore), “scarier than watching The Exorcist in an abandoned asylum” (Sarah Lotz) and “The Omen for the social media age” (Christopher Brookmyre). Director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code) optioned the film rights shortly after the book’s 2016 release.

Arnopp co-wrote the official behind-the-scenes book Inside Black Mirror with Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones.

Why not check out his four shorter-form fiction titles? These are:
— Beast In The Basement, a suspenseful, mind-blowing thriller novella
— A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home, a chilling and groundbreaking short story set in YOUR home
— Auto Rewind, a dark, emotionally charged thriller novelette
— American Hoarder, a supernatural creep-fest available only when you join the author’s free mailing list at JasonArnopp.com

Arnopp previously wrote and executive-produced the Lionsgate feature film Stormhouse and script-edited the Peter Mullan feature The Man Inside. He has also written for the worlds of Doctor Who (BBC), The Sarah Jane Adventures (BBC) and Friday The 13th (New Line Cinema).

In his past life as a rock journalist, he interviewed the likes of Bon Jovi, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne and Guns N’ Roses. He was once surrounded by angry guards holding semi-automatic weapons at The Vatican. His Slipknot biography, Slipknot: Inside The Sickness, Behind The Masks, was released in 2001 and is now available as a Kindle Edition. Arnopp has also written a guide to journalistic interviewing, entitled How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else, which is also out on Kindle.

Arnopp’s latest non-fiction book is From The Front Lines Of Rock. Available in the Kindle Store now, it gathers 30 of his favourite interviews he wrote as a rock journalist, with the likes of Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Korn, Kiss, Faith No More, Garbage, Nine Inch Nails and Green Day.

When you sign up for Arnopp’s free newsletter at JasonArnopp.com, you can also download his short story American Hoarder for free. You might also want to check out his YouTube channel by searching for his name there. What a wonderful world.

#BookReview: Soon by Lois Murphy @TitanBooks @lydiagittins #Soon #damppebbles

soon.jpgA gripping literary horror novel about the death of a haunted town, for fans of Richard Matheson. Winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Horror, shortlisted for the Colin Roderick Award.

On winter solstice, the birds disappeared, and the mist arrived.

The inhabitants of Nebulah quickly learn not to venture out after dark. But it is hard to stay indoors: cabin fever sets in, and the mist can be beguiling, too.

Eventually only six remain. Like the rest of the townspeople, Pete has nowhere else to go. After he rescues a stranded psychic from a terrible fate, he’s given a warning: he will be dead by solstice unless he leaves town –¬†soon.”

Welcome to the blog today and to my review of the fantastic Soon by Lois Murphy.  Soon is published by Titan Books in the UK today.  Wishing the author and the folk at Titan Books a very happy publication day.  I received a free ARC copy of Soon but that has in no way influenced my review.

I love a spot of horror. You can’t beat a gripping horror novel, which is exactly what¬†Soon¬†is. It’s the kind of novel that works its way under your skin. When you’re not reading it, you’re thinking about it. When I had finished this book I felt bereft and I wanted to return to the Australian town of Nebulah and the company of Pete, our main protagonist, immediately. Which is kind of odd because Nebulah is haunted. Big badass haunted. Haunted with a capital H-A-U-N-T-E-D.

The story is set in the late 1990s and virtually all residents of this once thriving town have gone. They’ve either had the peace of mind to grab whatever they can and leave, or they’re dead.¬† Three residents remain; Pete, who has nowhere else to go, Milly, who won’t leave because it would break her heart, and Li, who is too stubborn and won’t be driven out.¬† Every day during the daylight hours in Nebulah is pretty much like yours or mine. Every night is a terrifying nightmare which they pray they will survive. Because as the sun falls, the mist arrives. The mist will terrify and taunt you. Close your windows and lock your doors because if it gets in, or you leave the safety of your home, it will tear you to shreds. The residents have to drown out the sound of the mist’s claws scratching at the windows every night. A good night’s sleep is a long-forgotten luxury. It calls their names and pretends to be the people they love the most. The mist will show you what it wants you to see. Beguiling to some, horrifying to others. The only thing it wants to do is destroy you.¬†Ignored and ostracised by the Government, their pleas for help are firmly ignored. Outside of Nebulah, Nebulah no longer exists.

So when Pete ends up helping a visitor to the isolated town get away from the terrors in time, she issues a stark warning. He must leave Nebulah or he will die. And he must leave SOON.

This is a truly captivating novel which drew me in from start to finish. The unease and the uncertainty the author creates is a joy to read and I savoured every single second of this book. I was right there at the heart of Nebulah with the characters as they realised the sun would set soon and they were rapidly running out of time… It’s a beautifully written piece of fiction where everything works perfectly; the place, the characters, the gripping plot and of course, the terrifying mist. I wanted to return to this book again and again to get my next Nebulah fix.

I adored Pete. Far from perfect in many ways, I really felt his connection to the remaining residents. Having been shunned by his own daughter for his past failings, his love and respect for his friends, Milly and Li, really shone through. Despite retiring as the local police officer, the added burden of that responsibility – particularly as the next available officer was several hours drive away – still weighed heavy on his shoulders.

Would I recommend this book? I would. I would also recommend it to non-horror readers too as yes, there are a couple of gory scenes but in comparison to many horror novels there really aren’t that many and it’s more about the isolation, the grief and the regret. This is a totally engrossing piece of literary horror fiction and I adored it. I may become as obsessed with this book as I am with Josh Malerman’s Bird Box – you have been warned. Such an atmospheric, beautiful and beguiling novel. Don’t miss this one.

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

Soon by Lois Murphy was published in the UK by Titan Books on 15th October 2019 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Goodreads |

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lois-murphy-1Lois Murphy’s first novel, Soon, won an Aurealis Award for Best Horror and was shortlisted for the Colin Roderick Award.

Lois has travelled widely, most recently spending six years exploring Australia in a homemade 4WD truck, working mainly in small or remote towns. Lois currently lives near Melbourne, Victoria.

 

 

 

 

#BookReview: Bird Box by Josh Malerman @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #BirdBox #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (2/15)

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IF YOU’VE SEEN WHAT’S OUT THERE…IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE

Malorie raises the children the only way she can: indoors, with the doors locked, the curtains closed, and mattresses nailed over the windows.

The children sleep in the bedroom across the hall, but soon she will have to wake them and blindfold them.

Today they will risk everything. Today they will leave the house.

Josh Malerman‚Äôs New York Times bestselling Bird Box is a terrifying psychological thriller that will haunt you long after reading.”

We’ve all heard of Bird Box, right? The book was made into a Netflix film and it was massive, everyone was talking about it. Now I haven’t watched the film (too much blood, guts and gore for me – I get all of that from my books and not film or television!) so I can’t comment on that but this book, this incredible book with such a stunning concept is exceptional.

I devoured this book in a few short hours. I very occasionally say it doesn’t take me long to read a book (more often than not it takes me AGES as I’m a slow reader for a book blogger) but this is by far my quickest read in a long time. I could not put this book down and I flew through the pages like my life depended on it. I was mesmerised by Malorie’s incredible story and wanted to see what was going to happen but also savour my time with this courageous woman struggling through an unimaginable scenario. The publishers say this book will haunt you long after reading and they are so right. I’m traumatised by Bird Box and I love it! If you haven’t watched the film but you have a vague idea of the concept then you must read this book. I don’t think you truly ‘get it’ until you’re living it with Malorie and the children. Oh my gosh, it’s buried deep down in my soul. Absolutely superb!

Malorie discovers she’s pregnant. It’s not what she planned, the father of the baby isn’t one for a committed relationship but she knows she’s going to have the baby and do the best she can for her child. But then life takes a completely unexpected swerve. The news starts to report normal, everyday people committing unprovoked acts of extreme violence and then killing themselves. The killings start in Russia but before long there have been a number of attacks closer to home in America. No one knows for sure what provokes these normal people to carry out such horrific acts but it is believed they all ‘saw’ something. Something beyond what the human brain can comprehend. Something so unimaginable that it drives people violently mad. The solution? Don’t look. Windows are covered. Doors are locked tight. Blindfolds become the norm. Whatever you do, no matter how tempting, don’t look…

Don’t look. It sounds so simple. How many times has someone said ‘don’t look behind you, but….’ which of course makes you want to look even more. Malerman’s terrifying world full of unknown ‘creatures’ puts you on edge from the start. The book is told in the past and the present. The past shows us Malorie’s journey to the safe house where we meet a cast of fascinating characters, all thrown together with the same threat hanging over them and having to cope as best they can. In the present we are with Malorie and the children as she courageously takes them blindly up the river. To where we don’t actually find out until much later in the book but this just adds to the books tension and ratches the drama up tenfold.

This is a truly wonderful piece of fiction. It’s the kind of book you want your friend to read just so you can talk to someone about it. Malorie is a stand-out character and you see her change and adapt to her situation as you move through the story. She becomes hardened and it was fascinating to watch. Cope or die. Malorie isn’t the only fascinating character in this novel though. The residents of the safe house all add something and the children broke my heart.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. I loved this book and it will stay with me for some time to come. The only downside is the rather sudden and abrupt ending. I thought I had just under 100 pages left with Malorie which I planned to savour, only to find those pages were a short story. That, however, will not deter me from giving this atmospheric, creepy, mesmerising book five fabulous stars and a place on my top books of the year list, no siree! Bird Box is magnificent. Unsettling, terrifying, thought-provoking and impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman was published in the UK by Harper Collins on 29th January 2015 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram |