ONE WAY STREET

Jimmy Mullen is a homeless man living in a hostel in Newcastle. He has friends – Gadge and Deano – and a dog named Dog. He is also an ex-convict with PTSD. So, the odds are stacked against him, really, but somehow he retains an enquiring mind and a sharp intellect.
When Deano’s brother is found dead, the friends pool their resourced to investigate how he died and become enmeshed in a story of violence and drugs. Jimmy has the help of a police officer and a journalist, both of whom owe him favours. Gadge is also an expert in IT. Deano – well, he hasn’t got any particular skills that I could see but, in spite

of also being an ex-convict and a hardened drug addict, he’s a really nice guy. Lots of name-checking the areas in and around Newcastle which grounded the story a bit.
The blurb advertises One Way Street as being gritty and there are nasty villains galore but our little band of heroes are just so NICE and the story moves so SLOWLY that I only got to 30% before, sadly, leaving them to their adventures.
Perhaps if I had read Book One I could have bought into the characters more.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

JUST LOOK AT MY GIRLS!

THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING

THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING
NANCY TUCKER

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This was not an easy book to read and probably not an easy book to write. The theme of a child murderer, now an adult and a mother seeking redemption, is not new and most people can correolate to real-life cases.
Whether or not it is suitable for fictionalisation is not for me to say but from a personal perspective I found this particular book just too dark and despairing in the sections written by ‘Chrissie’. This was, in part, due to the overly mature language used and the emotions that such a young girl would be as yet

incapable of recognising.
Had it been written in third person I believe it could have been just as strongly portrayed.
In retrospect, even with these caveats, the ‘Chrissie’ sections were much stronger than the adult ‘Julie’ chapters which I found wearing with the continual self analysis. I felt that, after all the angst devoted to the child murderer, the book deserved a better resolution than it got.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV

THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV
DAWNIE WALTON

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ms Walton is an excellent writer and presents a meticulously researched account of the music industry during the 1970s and 1980s. Although entitled The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, the story is dominated by Opal. Told through a series of interviews and newspaper clippings, interspersed with many footnotes, the plot is glacially slow. An inordinate amount of time is given to the two protagonists’ early lives and I was a little impatient for the ‘real’ story to begin. The seminal moment that affects Opal and Nev’s relationship occurs halfway through the book and it is at this stage that the story finally runs out of steam. The rest of the book recounts what happened to them in subsequent years but doesn’t really add anything to resolve the issues raised.
Characters: at one stage Opal and Nev are described by another character as ‘arrogant’. This certainly applied to Opal who is one of the most self-centred characters I have ever read and that includes Becky Sharpe. She endlessly preaches, proselytises and complains until my teeth were on edge. I felt that she was merely a mouthpiece for the author’s opinions. Nev is selfish and weak but at the same time very loyal to Opal.

The point where doubt is cast on this loyalty, a defining moment in the plot, is never fully resolved one way or another. The narrator, Sunny, never came alive for me and, although emotionally involved at one level with Opal, remained strangely detached through most of the story. Opal’s friend and designer, Virgil, was the only really likeable character in the story.
Ms Walton’s habit of constantly name checking, and attributing quotes to, famous people made sections of the book seem like a non-fiction tract as she hammered home yet another ‘fact’, usually to excuse Opal’s increasingly bad behaviour.
I nearly gave up at the three-quarter’s stage as the writing had become a long string of who did what next, most of non-related to the main story, but I stuck it out to the end when it briefly rallied and I thought a big reveal was coming. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case and the whole thing fizzled out with a couple more footnotes to wrap things up. Three stars for the excellent writing and the interesting accounts of the music industry but two stars lost for the weak story and unbelievable characters.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

NIGHTMARE ALLEY

NIGHTMARE ALLEY
WILLIAM LINDSAY GRESHAM

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is Stanton (Stan) Carlisle’s story, charting his rise and inevitable fall. Set in the depression era, against a backdrop of a travelling freak show, the novel gets off to a great start, rich in characterisation, heavy on ‘carny’ slang and laden with atmosphere. The carny folk are all dishonest, as we would see it now, everything is aimed at fleecing the ‘mugs’ even if only a dime or a quarter at a time.
Stan aspires to more and, through a mixture of deceit and treachery, moves on to working in vaudeville as a mentalist, taking with him Molly, beautiful and not very bright. Over the next few years he moves on to become a spiritualist, styling himself Reverend and fleecing wealthy dupes out of their money. In these sections, again, there is a wealth of detail which I found fascinating.

He betrays the faithful Molly in the worst way imaginable and retribution, when it finds him, is merciless. To reveal any more of the plot would be to wander into Spoiler territory so I’ll stop there.
It’s not an enjoyable book, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is riveting, the first book in a long time where I neglected everything else to finish it. The flow is patchy at times and occasionally parts of the plot beggar belief. Normally, I would award four stars because of this but it gets the fifth and final star because the ending made me gasp aloud at the final twist in Stan’s story.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE DOLL

THE DOLL
YRSA SIGURDARDOTTIR

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The tagline on the front cover of The Doll proclaims, “It brings death to all who find it” signalling a thriller with supernatural overtones. And, indeed, the doll features in the opening sequence of the book, suitably grotesque and sinister.
It is then ignored for quite a long time while the author sets up quite a long and pretty dull investigation into abuse at a children’s home. In this section, we never meet the suspect or, indeed, learn any details of the supposed crime. Instead, the narrative concentrates on a social worker and a police officer who discuss it a lot. Many external characters and references to crimes are introduced.
By the time the middle section of the book began to reveal the connection between some of these people and incidents, I was rapidly losing interest but forged on as, at last, there was some action.

The doll does eventually turn up again but, at that point the investigation ‘in real time’ ends. The policeman turns up at the social worker’s home and tells her a VERY long rambling story involving several murders, suspects and more than a few coincidences to fit everything together.
At times, when questioned, he says, “We’ll never know the answer to that.” and it’s just glossed over. I admit to skip reading most of this really turgid section as I just wanted to get to the end.
Just as I thought it was all over, another fairly minor character began another lengthy exposition which made nonsense of a lot of the police’s conclusions. The ending was incredible, in the truest sense of the word.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

DIVING FOR PEARLS

DIVING FOR PEARLS
JAMIE O’CONNELL

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This is a difficult novel to review. The plot is a complicated one where the ostensible murder of a young woman affects the lives of six different and seemingly disparate people. The death takes place in Dubai and some of the characters involved, although living in Dubai, originate from Ireland. Full credit must be given to the author for bringing alive both locations, especially Dubai, where he goes into great detail about the architecture, the lives of ex-pats living there and the multi-cultural citizenship. He also gives a lot of time to introducing the main characters and delving into their backgrounds. Ancillary characters are a little one dimensional.
The first half of the book is a rich tapestry, excellently written and I was enthralled.
Having brought all the characters to the point of their involvement in the murder, however tangentally, the novel simply runs out of steam.
Of the six people involved, only two have a logical end to their

story. Of the others, some had a rushed synopsis-like explanation of what happened to them, almost ex deus machina. Others were simply left hanging with no resolution.
The biggest disappointment to me was that the character who turned out to be the chief suspect never actually appears in the book, allied to the fact another major character, seemingly falsely accused of the death (I can’t write murder because that was never determined) disappeared part way through the book and was only referred to fleetingly once in the ‘epilogue’ which was a very unsatisfactory and partial tying up of only some of the loose ends.
I am awarding two stars because of the excellent first half of the book but really can’t award more stars because of the bitter disappointment I experienced when sticking with the second half to the bitter end.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

TWICE BROKEN – RISING FROM THE ASHES

Well, here it is – new title, new design, new back cover. I’m going to miss Ashes on the Tongue, having lived with it for nearly a year, but I think Twice Broken is more appropriate to the story as it has evolved.

ASHES TO ASHES

Alas!

Ashes on the Tongue is no more.

Laid to rest 18th March 2021

LATEST COVER FOR ‘ASHES’

With a publication date of 1st June firmly established, I really need to settle my mind on a cover. This is the latest (not the last) version and has a (sort of) blurb. Although I love the picture of the old farmhouse, I had quite a bit of feedback saying it wouldn’t have any impact at thumbnail size.
One person said she’d love to read the book but would have passed over the thumbnail. So I’ve reintroduced Devonn, who is so like Fen in my mind’s eye.

ashes on the tongue

novel

historic

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