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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield was published in the UK by Scholastic on 2nd July 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

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

“Hold tight.

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

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

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

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

Scream Ride: A white-knuckle horror novel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scream Ride by D.I. Russell was published in the UK on 15 April 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The author of the bestselling The Hunted returns…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Inheritance by Gabriel Bergmoser was published in the UK by Faber Books on 4th November 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprieve by James Han Mattson was published in the UK by Bloomsbury on 5th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022 (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi was published in the UK by Titan Books on 20th July 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hunger by Alma Katsu was published in the UK by Bantam Books on 21st February 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

“It’s a local legend.

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

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

They’ll realize the danger, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez was published in the UK on 27th August 2019 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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