#BookReview: The Island by C.L. Taylor @HQstories #TheIsland #damppebbles

Welcome to The Island.

Where your worst fears are about to come true…

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.

But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime turns into a nightmare.

Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re becoming a reality.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Island by C.L. Taylor. The Island was published by HQ Young Adult on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

I had a bit of a break in my planned reading so I turned to my own groaning bookshelves for inspiration. It’s true, there are a LOT of books all vying for attention on my shelves but The Island by C.L. Taylor easily won out. I’m really enjoying YA fiction at the moment (in the form of thrillers, mysteries and horror) and I’ve read a number of this author’s adult books so I was very keen to get stuck into The Island, the author’s second YA thriller.

Six teens are heading out on the holiday of a lifetime to Thailand. Their parents, who met at an antenatal class seventeen years ago and have always stayed in touch, get together once a year for a holiday. This year they’re upping the ante thanks to Jefferson’s dad who is hiring an isolated island and guide to celebrate his son’s 17th birthday. Whilst the parents relax in the lap of luxury, their kids will be skinning rabbits and building shelters. But once they arrive on the island things start to go wrong. Their guide dies suddenly and the boat is rendered useless when they discover the starter cord has been cut. And then their worst nightmares really start coming true. Long held phobias start manifesting themselves. Someone on the island knows what terrifies the teens the most and they’re going to do everything they can to make their lives a living hell…

The Island is a very engaging, very readable novel which I enjoyed. The story is told from two points of view – Jessie’s and Danny’s. I really liked Jessie from the moment I met her. Recent events hang heavy over her head and she’s clearly still grieving following the horrific death of her older brother. Since her last holiday with the group she’s changed and feels more on the periphery. She refuses to discuss what happened to her sibling and the others don’t ask or offer support so a lot is left to bubble beneath the surface. She’s unpredictable and perhaps a little reckless at times, changed by events but more than anything, she needs someone to talk to. Jessie’s character is very well written as I felt her pain and her angst. The other characters in the book – Jefferson, Milo, Meg, Honor (and of course, Danny who I’ve already mentioned) – are interesting and well-drawn. They play their parts well and help move the story along.

The plot is fast paced and gripping, with something always happening to hold the reader’s attention. I enjoyed the isolation the author creates and the way tension builds throughout the story. I did feel the numerous mentions of help only being one week away (when their parents realise their children haven’t returned to the hotel) did dampen the tension a little bit, but only a smidge. After all, there’s still the risk that not all six teens will make it out alive (no spoilers here). I’m afraid I was able to guess whodunit fairly early on and each new clue only cemented my suspicions further. However, I will say I am NOT the target audience for this book, I DO read a lot of thrillers AND I’m always on the lookout for whodunit, no matter what book I’m reading.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for a well-written, engaging YA thriller then The Island is it. The author is skilled at writing interesting, complex characters which this book once again proves. I didn’t like all of them. At times one in particular made my blood boil, but they were my camp mates for the two days it took me to read The Island and I did (mostly) enjoy spending time with them. Well-paced, well written and a book I’m keen for my kids to read when they’re old enough to. A gripping and emotional YA thriller which I recommend.

The Island by C.L. Taylor was published in the UK by HQ Young Adult on 21st January 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

C.L. TaylorC.L. Taylor is an award winning Sunday Times bestselling author of nine gripping psychological thrillers including SLEEP, a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for autumn 2019. Her books are not a series and can be read in any order:

2014 – THE ACCIDENT / Before I Wake (U.S.)
2015 – THE LIE
2018 – THE FEAR
2019 – SLEEP

She has also written two Young Adult thrillers, THE TREATMENT and THE ISLAND.

C.L. Taylor’s books have sold in excess of a million copies, been number one on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and have been translated into over 25 languages and optioned for TV.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014. She lives in Bristol with her partner and son.

#BookReview: The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky @EMTeenFiction #TheLastGirl #damppebbles

“Scream meets Gossip Girl with a dash of One of Us is Lying!

When it comes to horror movies, the rules are clear:
– Avoid abandoned buildings, warehouses, and cabins at all times.
– Stay together: don’t split up, not even just to “check something out.…
– If there’s a murderer on the loose, do NOT make out with anyone …

New girl Rachel Chavez turns to horror movies for comfort, preferring them to the bored rich kids of her fancy New York High School. But then Rachel is recruited by the Mary Shelley Club, a mysterious student club that sets up terrifying Fear Tests; elaborate pranks inspired by urban legends and horror movies.

But when a sinister masked figure appears, Rachel realises that her past has caught up with her. It’s time for the ultimate prank to play out …”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky. The Last Girl was published by Electric Monkey yesterday (that’s Thursday 15th April 2021) and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Last Girl but that has in no way influenced my review.

Everything about this book called to me. I’m a huge fan of the Final Girl trope and like to dabble in the odd spot of horror fiction every now and again (OK, it’s fairly often!). So as soon as I saw that fabulous blood splattered, yellow cover and read the blurb, I knew I had to read The Last Girl. Yes, I may be a smidge out of the books YA age range but so flippin’ what! I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining homage to horror movies.

Rachel Chavez has a secret. Something terrifying happened to her and she lives with the trauma and the memories every day. Turning to horror movies for comfort she struggles to come to terms with what she did that fateful night one year ago. Following a move from Long Island to an exclusive private school in Manhattan, Rachel struggles to adjust to her new surroundings. There’s no denying it, she’s the new girl at school and just doesn’t fit in. She is neither privileged nor popular and only there because her mother is on the staff. But she finds a friend in Saundra who is determined to help her get to know a few people and drags Rachel unwittingly along to every party going. At one such party Rachel sees something she perhaps shouldn’t and is introduced to The Mary Shelley Club: a group of ill-fitting teens who like to watch horror movies and test whether the horror tropes they love so much can actually play out in real life by staging dramatic and terrifying pranks they like to call Fear Tests. But it soon becomes clear that Rachel can’t run from her past….

If you’re a horror movie fan this is a must read! You will love the references and the discussions which take place between the characters. I’ve seen the grand total of zero horror movies [I kid you not! I was present once in the room when Scream played out on the TV – there was another teen slasher about Valentine’s Day too but I can’t remember what that was called!] and I absolutely devoured it. I may not have seen the movies but I’m familiar with many of the characters and what happens in the more popular films. For the more obscure references Google was my friend!

The Last Girl is a terrific book. It didn’t take me long to warm to Rachel who I thought, despite what she had gone through (and her rather intense horror movie obsession), was a pretty normal, likeable kid. The other characters in the book are all very well drawn, particularly the members of the Mary Shelley Club – Felicity, Freddie, Bram & Thayer – who all had their own strong, identifiable personalities and idiosyncrasies. Some of the kids were popular, others weren’t. Some were at the school as part of a scholarship, others were there because Mummy and Daddy were part of the New York elite. Despite being quite tightknit during meetings, outside they pretended not to know each other and I really liked that. It added to the whole mystical exclusive club vibe the author does so well. The themes of ‘fitting in’ and feeling the need to belong run strong through this novel. As someone who perhaps didn’t always fit, I felt I could relate to Rachel’s awkwardness at times.

However, I have to say as a responsible, *ahem* mature adult, the idea of the Mary Shelley Club is a terrible one (bloody marvellous as a piece of fiction – truly terrible in real life). But I couldn’t help but enjoy every moment of it which probably makes me an awful human being! I loved seeing how the club re-enacted the popular tropes. The effort they put in to their ‘pranks’ was true dedication to the cause.  I’m a keen amateur sleuth – regular readers of damppebbles may already know this – but this is the first book in a while where I’ve not set out to find out ‘whodunit’. I just went with the flow of the story without trying to second guess what was going to happen next and why. And I loved where this novel took me. Whilst the big reveal didn’t come as a huge surprise there were aspects of it which I found quite shocking. I don’t think I’m quite over it yet!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Last Girl was a thoroughly entertaining read. I was expecting a full-on teen slasher but what I got was a clever mystery laden with great horror movie references featuring a group of teens I actually started to care about, despite their obsession with fear and their insatiable need to terrorise people. A well-written page turner. A story that stuck its meat hooks into me from early on and kept me riveted from start to finish. I would happily read more from this author and will be on the look out for future releases. Recommended

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

The Last Girl (aka as The Mary Shelley Club) by Goldy Moldavsky was published in the UK by Electric Monkey on 15th April 2021 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.orgGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Goldy Moldavsky was born in Lima, Peru, and grew up in Brooklyn, where she still lives. Her novels include the New York Times bestseller, KILL THE BOY BAND, NO GOOD DEED, and the upcoming THE MARY SHELLEY CLUB (Henry Holt Books, 2021); her love of 80s movies, 90s boy bands, and horror flicks hugely influences her work. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @goldywrites.

#BookReview: The Search Party by Simon Lelic @VikingBooksUK #TheSearchParty #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the search party

“Sixteen-year-old Sadie Saunders is missing.

Five friends set out into the woods to find her.

But they’re not just friends…


You see, this was never a search party.

It’s a witch hunt.

And not everyone will make it home alive…

THE CHALK MAN meets THE HUNTING PARTY in this gripping story; witness four suspects as, alongside DI Fleet, you attempt to discover the truth about what happened to Sadie…

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my nineteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Search Party by Simon Lelic. The Search Party is published by Viking Books today (that’s 20th August 2020) and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Search Party but that has in no way influenced my review.

So I admit it, ‘The Chalk Man meets The Hunting Party…’ line sold this book to me before I had fully taken on what the book was about. Two of my very favourite books, the publisher was telling me, had conceived a book baby and it was The Search Party with its fantastically striking cover. I was sold and oh boy, I was excited to make a start.

Sadie Saunders is missing. Her friends, keen to be involved in the search for Sadie, want to help. But they’re told they’re too young. They’re told to stay at home and wait for news. So they decide to pack a few non-essential items (phone chargers for example 🤦) and head out to the woods for a few nights to look for Sadie. But they all have secrets. Things they’re keeping from one another. And one of the teenagers, Mason, is a little hot-headed. He’s Sadie’s boyfriend and he suspects one of the friends has something to do with Sadie going missing…

The book opens with a bang which immediately grabs your attention, puts you on the wrong foot and makes you start to ask questions. We’re then introduced to the absolutely brilliant DI Robin Fleet who was one of my very favourite things about this book. Fleet is in charge of putting the pieces together and working out not only what has happened to Sadie Saunders, but who is responsible for this latest tragedy. I loved Fleet. He’s flawed but not too flawed. Just a good, honest copper who struggles with the politics of policing and the restrictions put upon him by his current superior officer. I hope to see more of him in future books.

What’s interesting about this book is the way the author has presented the viewpoints of the teenagers who went into the woods that fateful day. It’s clear from the get-go that they’re recounting what happened to a police officer, but you only ever hear from the teenagers. The accounts are presented as monologues allowing each character to have their say and their moment in the spotlight. There’s every chance this approach is used in most of the books I read but this time, it felt different and new.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Search Party is an intricate, slow-burn mystery full of suspense which I found entertaining from start to finish. I should say that before reading this book, I had very recently finished another novel featuring a cast of moody teenagers which perhaps took the edge off of the book for me a little. However, the chapters focusing on the investigation with DI Fleet as their star, I really enjoyed. More Fleet please! Recommended.

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

The Search Party by Simon Lelic was published by Viking Books on 20th August 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 |


Simon Lelic credit Justine StoddartSimon Lelic was born in 1976 and has worked as a journalist in the UK and currently runs his own business in Brighton, England, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

#BookReview: The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters @BooksSphere #TheKillerYouKnow #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the killer you know“I’ll murder three people. And you’ll know it was me . . .

Summer 1997. When Will jokes about becoming a serial killer, his friends just laugh it off. But Adeline can’t help but feel there’s something darker lurking behind his words.

Winter 2015: Years later, Adeline returns to Blythe for a reunion of the old gang – except Will doesn’t show up. Reminiscing about old times, they look up the details of his supposed murder spree. But the mood soon changes when they discover two recent deaths that match.

As the group attempts to track Will down, they realise that he is playing a sinister game that harks back to one they used to play as kids. Only this time there are lives at stake . . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my eighteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters. The Killer You Know was published by Sphere Books on 2nd May 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Killer You Know but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely love the concept of this book. A group of teenage friends gather one night as the end of Summer approaches. One of them, Will, is considered to be the odd kid in the group. So when he makes an off-the-cuff comment about being a serial killer when he’s older, the others are shocked and a little unnerved by his bold statement. When Will fails to turn up to a group reunion many years later, it leaves his friends wondering, could he have carried out the unthinkable? When the friends check the very precise details he gave about the killings, they find reports of a suicide that matches…and then a second death. One report could be classed as a coincidence, but two deaths…? No, there’s no question about it, there’s something suspicious going on. Now all they have to do is find Will, and see for themselves. Particularly as Will threatened a third death, much closer to home…

Set in the late 90s and the present day, this book delivered shedloads of fantastic nostalgia. Now, I admit, I’m a little older than the characters in this book but the 90s were my decade. I loved the trips back in time where the bands of the day were discussed alongside the group’s obsession with movies. Wonderful stuff!

The characters all stood tall each adding something to the story. Their personalities were all very different but when you live in a small village, you’re thrown together with people you perhaps wouldn’t necessarily choose as friends yourself. That added a very interesting group dynamic to the book. They all had their own very defined roles which weren’t necessarily accepted by some members but rather pushed upon them – expected maybe. Leading to tension, rivalry and an undercurrent of bad feeling. It was interesting to watch a group of teenagers who, like many teenagers, think they’re wise beyond their years, deal with some very adult emotions.

Despite my appreciation of the 90s vibe in The Killer You Know, I did prefer the sections set in the present day when the group are trying to track Will down. The mystery of Will’s disappearance, the bubbling undercurrent of not really knowing who to trust anymore and the sense of foreboding made parts of the book a fairly tense read. The author takes time to set the scene, taking the reader back to 1997 and painting a very vivid, thorough picture.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of slow-burn, suspenseful mysteries then you may enjoy The Killer You Know. I felt it could have been a little shorter as I found my attention drifting at times and I wanted something to hook me back in. I was able to guess where the story was going to go, which may not have helped my meandering attention. I also struggled a little with the writing style and had to re-read large sections to grasp what was happening and check I hadn’t missed a key plot point – but that could have just been me having a bad day. A really interesting concept and I would happily read more by this author.

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

The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 2nd May 2019 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 |



S R Masters studied Philosophy at Girton College, Cambridge. He is a regular contributor to UK short fiction anthology series The Fiction Desk, having won their Writer’s Award for his short story Just Kids. His story Desert Walk was included in Penguin Random House USA’s Press Start to Play collection, published last year, and he continues to have short fiction published in a variety of magazines.

When not writing, Simon works in public health in Oxford, where he lives with his wife, Helen.

The Killer You Know is his first novel.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt (@writermels) @bookouture #helpme

girls-next-door-final“One warm spring evening, five teenagers meet in a local park. Only four will come out alive.

Six months after the stabbing of fifteen-year-old Deanna Miller, someone is coming after the teenagers of Stockleigh, as a spate of vicious assaults rocks this small community. Revenge for Deanna? Or something more?

Detective Eden Berrisford is locked into a race against time to catch the twisted individual behind the attacks – but when her own niece, Jess Mount, goes missing, the case gets personal.

With the kidnapper threatening Jess’ life, can Eden bring back her niece to safety? Or will the people of Stockleigh be forced to mourn another daughter…?

A terrifying, compelling police procedural which will thrill fans of Angela Marsons, The Teacher, and Rachel Abbott”

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome you to my stop (and the final stop) on the The Girls Next Door blog tour which I share with the very lovely Jo over at My Chestnut Reading Tree.  Pop over and say hi to Jo once you’ve finished here, as I bet she’s written a superb review of this fantastic book!

help-me-mel-sherrattHave you ever considered how different your life would be if you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Teenager Katie Trent ends up in the wrong place.  One moment life is normal, the next she’s witnessing her boyfriend stab another teen. Shock makes Katie react slowly but she manages to be with Deanna, the victim, as she takes her last breath.  Then she runs, runs home and hides from her family, hides her blood stained clothes.  But the attack has been captured on CCTV and Katie, the killer and another two boys are arrested.  Katie’s best friend, Jess is devastated; the girls being more like sisters than best friends.  Six months down the line and several local teens become the victims of savage and cruel attacks.  Are the attacks connected to the murder? Are the Barker family finally seeking revenge?  DS Eden Berrisford and her team are on the case.  Except things are about to get personal for Eden.  Her niece, Jess has gone missing.  Eden watches the CCTV footage as Jess is punched in the face and bundled into a van.  Can Eden crack the case and save Jess before it’s too late…?

This (I’m ashamed to say) is my first Mel Sherratt read and I can safely say that I was not disappointed.  The opening chapters immediately pull you into the story – they’re shocking and unexpected, your heart goes out to the characters involved.  It was very easy to like the teenage characters as they’re brilliantly written but I was surprised by how much I liked them.  The attacks on the female characters are all very humiliating and I really felt for them (maybe it’s that mothering instinct within me).

I really liked Eden Berrisford but found her a little too polished (with her 60s styled clothes and mini with the black and white checkered roof).  Eden’s history with her husband does provide that much needed ‘rough edge’ but I wanted something….more, something darker.  She wasn’t what I expected but, if you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that I love a dark, grumpy detective.  The grumpier and more damaged, the better.  One thing’s for sure, I want to know more about her and eagerly wait for the next instalment.

The plot was interesting and kept my attention from start to finish.  I found the attacks on the teenagers quite harrowing, almost stomach churning but that was where the terror ended for me. Jess’s kidnap ordeal was well written but I never really felt she was in real danger. Saying that, I’ve read several fabulous reviews of this book and they all say the opposite to me; they felt really scared for Jess.  (Maybe that’s the result of too much crime fiction over the years, I’ve become numb to terror!  Uh oh..)

Would I recommend this book?  I certainly would.  I can’t remember the last crime thriller I read that had this much emotion in it.  Yes, it’s a gripping crime thriller but it’s got bags of heart too.  Very enjoyable, particularly the sections written from Katie and Jess’ standpoint.  Bring on the next Eden Berrisford novel please, Mel Sherratt.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Noelle Holten at Bookouture, NetGalley and Mel Sherratt.  I chose to read and review an ARC of The Girls Next Door.

The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt was published in the UK by Bookouture on 27th October 2016 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | Bookouture |


Smith & Sons (11)

mel-sherratt-photoMel Sherratt writes gritty crime dramas, psychological suspense and fiction with a punch – or grit-lit, as she calls it. Shortlisted for the CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in the Library Award 2014, she finds inspiration from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante and Elizabeth Haynes. Since 2012, all nine of her crime novels have been bestsellers. Four of her books are published by Amazon Publishing’s crime and thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer and she has a new series out with Bookouture.
Mel lives in Stoke-on-Trent, with her husband and terrier, Dexter, named after the TV serial killer, and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for some of her books.

Author Links:Twitter | Website | Facebook |