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.

THE PACT

THE PACT
SHARON BOLTON

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sharon Bolton has a well deserved reputation as an excellent writer. Her plots are (more than) intricate with multiple characters all with clearly defined personalities. She never loses the thread of any of her multi-layered stories and holds the reader entranced to the very last word.
The Pact could possibly be the most complicated novel she has written so far. It is certainly the most convoluted one I have read for quite a long time. The story has been outlined more than once by other reviewers, so I’m not going to rehash it here. Suffice to say, the six protagonists are an arrogant, privileged, self serving bunch that will make your hackles rise. But you will LOVE to hate them.
Unforeseen revelations are thick on the ground as the end of the story looms ever nearer and I didn’t see one of them coming – the hallmark of a great write. The only small cavil I have is that the whole thing is wildly overblown and incredible but, in a strange way, it just enhanced the story more for me. One of the few books I will return to in the future.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

LATER

LATER
STEPHEN KING

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I never thought I’d write these words but, deep breath, I’m about to give up on Stephen King.
I struggled with ‘The Institute’ which read like it was written for teenagers but thought, well, it’s King, he’s allowed a turkey occasionally.
But he seems to be intent on populating a whole farmyard, judging by his latest offering. Here’s my Amazon review and, in my humble opinion, I’m going easy on him.
1. The book arrived on my Kindle labelled as an unedited proof.
2. What is already a very short story only takes up 90% of the book; the rest is advertising.
3. If I hadn’t been told this was by Stephen King, I’d have tossed it in the bin a quarter of the way through.
4. Sketchily drawn characters, a weak story … what happened, Mr King?

THE RED BOOK

THE RED BOOK
JAMES PATTERSON
with DAVID ELLIS

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I gave up on James Patterson books a few years ago, finding them a bit ‘quick and slick’ with the short chapters and pared down writing. The Red Book, written with the collaboration of David Ellis, was a pleasurable surprise and has re-affirmed me as a fan of Patterson. Although the main character, Detective Billy Harney, has the conventional troubled past, it doesn’t dominate the story but is interwoven skilfully and completely believably. His sidekick has her own secrets and the twisty reveal is excellently done. I had not realised that this was the second in the series but will now search out its predecessor, The Black Book. Highly recommended.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

WIN

WIN
HARLAN COBEN

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I always quite liked the character of Windsor Horne Lockwood in Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series. He could be irritating in a minor way as a secondary character but, as the eponymous ‘hero’ of this book, he is a royal pain-in-the-derriere. He is not only unlikeable, he is unbearable with his constant references to how rich he is, how immoral he is, how he casually kills and injures people he has judged to in need of despatching. He is immaculately dressed, knowledgeable about every subject that crops up, has casual unemotionless sex (at which he excels, naturally) and travels vast distances by ‘copter. He also has an annoying habit of addressing the reader, telling us what to think and dismissing any notion that our opinion would matter, anyway. I get what Coben is trying to do here, but he has overshot the mark by a country mile.
As far as the plot goes, it is moderately interesting as ‘call

me Win’ follows the trail of a thirty year old incident involving activists, murder-by-accident and stolen paintings. Most of the book is taken p with Win travelling the country, either by his personal jet, his copter or his chauffeur driven car, asking questions and coming to brilliant deductions. There is no tension or element of suspense because there is no question that he will be successful. There is one incident mid-book which involves violence and a potentially interesting sub-plot which is written off in a few paragraphs.
The end, when it limps tiredly into view is simply a few pages of Win demonstrating (again) how brilliant he is and then deciding how events should be tied up … because only his opinion matters, as he tells us ad nauseam throughout the book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own..

THE PLAYERS

THE PLAYERS
DARREN O’SULLIVAN

Rating: 3 out of 5.

BLURB
A stranger has you cornered.
They call themselves The Host.
You are forced to play their game.
In it one person can live and the other must die.
You are the next player. 
You have a choice to make.This is a game where nobody wins…

REVIEW
The Players has the bones of a good story and succeeds in raising questions in the reader’s mind about just how far one would go to protect one’s family.
DI Karen Holt is an interesting character, in a stable relationship and a welcome change from the tormented alcoholic / guilt ridden main character that pops up all too often in contemporary thrillers.


The author does however, succumb to a few predominant cliches – the officer who is the only competent person who can solve the crime in spite of being forbidden to do so, putting one’s loved ones in danger, loyal and admiring sidekick who hangs on Holt’s every word.
The novel built slowly with an over emphasis on Holt’s therapy, which was endlessly discussed but bore no relevance to the story.
Disappointingly, I found The Host completely unbelievable when his identity was revealed and there was more than one occasion where he could have been apprehended much earlier in the story.
A good premise which unfortunately stutters to an unconvincing end.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

GOOD EGGS

GOOD EGGS
REBECCA HARDIMAN

Rating: 3 out of 5.

BLURB
Meet the Gogartys; cantankerous gran Millie (whose eccentricities include a penchant for petty-theft and reckless driving); bitter downtrodden son Kevin (erstwhile journalist whose stay-at-home parenting is pushing him to the brink); and habitually moody, disaffected teenage daughter Aideen.
When Gran’s arrested yet again for shoplifting, Aideen’s rebelliousness has reached new heights and Kevin’s still not found work, he realises he needs to take action. With the appointment of a home carer for his mother, his daughter sent away to boarding school to focus on her studies and more time for him to reboot his job-hunt, surely everything will work out just fine. But as the story unfolds nothing goes according to plan and as the calm starts to descend into chaos we’re taken on a hilarious multiple-perspective roller-coaster ride that is as relatable as it is far-fetched.

REVIEW
More of a curate’s egg than Good Eggs, really. Rebecca Hardiman has peopled her debut novel with whimsical stock Irish characters – the granny, a bit of a kleptomaniac; the guy having a midlife crisis; the stroppy misunderstood teenager etc. She writes cleanly and the story flows along quite steadily. The problem, for me, was that I’ve read it all before and in stories that were livelier and that captured my imagination. I couldn’t work up any sympathy or liking for the Gogartys and, at times, just longed for the over-written granny to calm it down a bit.
I’d rate Good Eggs as a potboiler, a quick easy read to pass an afternoon but, sadly, lacking the depth and charisma I look for in Irish based novels.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


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