REVIEWS

Books, Movies, Plays, Art and my humble opinions


FOOD REVIEW: THE KILLUMNEY INN, CORK

A quick call to the Killumney Inn on a Saturday evening in July to make sure there would be a table available and we were off and seated by 8pm. We needn’t have worried about getting a table because only one other table in the restaurant was occupied and on a summer Saturday evening that seemed a little off putting.


BOOK REVIEW: YEAR ONE

This is my first Nora Roberts novel and it won’t be my last. Okay I realise she appears to mostly write romantic fiction and while it has it’s place it wouldn’t be something in which I’d want to invest enough time for a whole novel, but that aspect received a light touch in this book and was used only to make the characters real and move the story along.


TV Review: Black Spot (2017-)

This thriller with supernatural tendencies is set in probably the bleakest and most dilapidated location ever to have been broadcast into anyones livingroom. Think Fortitude without the pretty white snow, mixed with a dash of Fargo and rounded off with the weirdness of Twin Peaks.


BOOK REVIEW: A BOOK OF BONES

The new Charlie Parker novel is always a highly anticipated event for me. It’s like getting together with a group of old friends that studiously avoid social media and the way that medium devalues the joy and sometimes sadness of “catching up”. A Book of Bones was more like being invited to a wedding to which those old friends had also been invited and getting the highlights of what we’d all been up to despite the distractions of the other guests and the too loud music. In this case the too loud music was without a doubt the intrusion of the historical “short stories’ injected into the almost 700 page novel.


BOOK REVIEW: GONE

Gone is the first in a series of YA of six novels which pitches a group of young people against forces they can’t begin to understand and ultimately each other. Once again we have Lord of the Flies meets Stephen King’s under the dome with a touch of Marvel’s Xmen thrown in for good measure.


TV Review: The Society (2019-)

Have you noticed how many books and TV shows have taken the Lord of the Flies premise and run with it? This outing is definitely above average and despite coming across as a YA version of Stephen King’s The Dome it holds its own with above average acting, an intelligent plot (once you get over the initial ‘how it happened’ piece) and a decent take on the “what ifs” – what if there were no adults, what if there was limited food, what if there was nobody to enforce the rule of law, etc.


BOOK REVIEW: THE REDBREAST

This is the 3rd Harry Hole novel and in this instalment in the very successful series of bestsellers, the level of complexity we have grown to expect from Jo Nesbo begins to show itself. The story combines elements of both a whodunnit and a who-will-do-it by delivering a very well integrated combination of stories from the second world war and Norway during the visit of US President Clinton (although he’s never actually named in the novel).


BOOK REVIEW: THE BOY WHO SAW

This is the second in a series of novels about the enigmatic figure that is Solomon Creed and, in my opinion, this outing is far superior to the previous novel. Good conscience insists that I confess that any novel set in France has already gained some points from me because of my love for the country, but putting that aside this story is much more relatable for me and less like a pitch for a Netflix/HBO TV series. Something the first novel in this series seemed to descend into at times.


BOOK REVIEW: SOLOMON CREED

I’d read previous books by this author and knew I was in for a decent novel that would be entertaining enough to hold my attention (during a busy time of the year for me) and provide good value for the time I’d invest. I was pleasantly surprised to find Solomon Creed an engaging character with a good balance of personality and mystery, a combination that appeals to me when looking for crime fiction.


BOOK REVIEW: LADY MIDNIGHT

It’s summertime so my head turns to YA fiction to get away from the pressure of “grown up” books – that’s an insult to some of the YA fiction that outstrips the so-called mainstream novels by a country mile and especially when it comes to addressing social issues and generating a useful conversation, but in my case it simply means I’m too old to emotionally empathise with the romantic dilemmas and so I get to focus on the story.


BOOK REVIEW: AUTHORITY

To be fair to Authority, book two in the Area X trilogy, I haven’t read book one Annihilation. I saw the Netflix movie and despite some very mixed reviews I really enjoyed the disjointed nature of the story and the amazing special effect images. Given the fact there’s unlikely to be a sequel to the movie I decided to check out the novels.


BOOK REVIEW: SLEEPING BEAUTIES

Apart from the fact that a Stephen King novel is almost always an entertaining read, what attracted me to this novel was the notion of a father/son collaboration. I hadn’t read any of Owen King’s other work, comedy not being one of my areas of interest, and it appealed to me to see what his influence on the story might be. I also thought the focus on absent women and the possibility of looking at what men might do if this ever came to pass (okay I know it’s not likely, but maybe it would be a scaled up version of what it would be like if all the women in one’s family left for some or various reasons).


BOOK REVIEW: SEVENEVES

The best way for me to describe this novel would be to call it The Silmarillion in Space. It’s almost as epic and mythical as Tolkien’s major work behind The Lord of The Rings and at times just as much hard work to read. In fairness it is described as ‘hard science fiction’ and while I am a sci-fi fan I’m not a tech head and so the laboured, for me, passages giving intricate details of the hardware and space survival techniques left me cold.


BOOK REVIEW: SHERLOCK HOLMES vs. CTHULHU

I’ll admit I’m a Holmes fan and enjoy the character in (almost) all of his manifestations. That’s what caught my eye when I came across Lois H. Gresh’s novel, along with the sub-title The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions. Sadly the book didn’t live up to my expectations, but that may not entirely be the author’s fault.


MOVIE REVIEW: INCEPTION

IN A SENTENCE: A mind-bending intelligent sci-fi thriller that keeps you on your toes from the first scene to the last.


BOOK REVIEW: AMERICAN GODS

The emergence of the new TV phenomenon that is American Gods seduced me into watching the first episode online. I read the novel some years ago and was engrossed not just by the weirdly literate style, plot and characters, but also by the concept of old gods and new gods meeting up in the new world.


BOOK REVIEW: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

Every now and then a book comes along that you very badly want to talk about but you also very badly want not to spoil for others. This is one of those books. Let’s just say it puts a new spin on a very current horror genre by telling the story from not only the point of view of the characters that usually would be the antagonists but from the perspective of a group of children.


BOOK REVIEW: OMENS

Let’s get this out of the way, we have a young woman with a problem who goes to live in a strange town and meets up with a socially stunted young professional with a past. She also hooks up with a ‘bad boy’ who isn’t really a bad boy and part of her troubles include an ex-fiancee with a definite personality flaw. No, I haven’t begun to review City of The Lost again, but you’d be forgiven for getting confused.


BOOK REVIEW: MR. MERCEDES

Stephen King said this was his first hard-boiled detective book and indeed it is. The plot makes it a page turner and the characters are as real as any King characters have ever been, and that’s about as life-like as they get. His retired detective (to be played on TV by Irish actor Brendan Gleeson), complete with middle-aged health problems, is sufficiently weather-worn and cantankerous to take his place in the detectives’ hall of fame with any of the greats.


MOVIE REVIEW: XMEN – APOCALYPSE

IN A SENTENCE: The re-emerging Xmen must do battle with an all-powerful mutant to save the world and themselves (and the franchise of course).


BOOK REVIEW: SAPIENS

I’ve developed the habit over the years of balancing my fiction addiction with reading some thought balancing non-fiction. That’s not to say I don’t learn a lot about the “real world” and life from good fiction, but sometimes my inner-nerd needs feeding. On this occasion the meal was less of a mental snack and more of a full-on feast.


BOOK REVIEW: FRANKENSTEIN – THE SERIES

I’ve been reading Dean Koontz novels on and off for decades, so when I saw he was rebooting the Frankenstein story I was intrigued, to say the least. The concept of updating old stories to a modern setting isn’t a new one and it certainly is in vogue as far as TV is concerned – Grimm,


BOOK REVIEW: THE FIREMAN

I like Joe Hill’s work and reviewed his debut novel too and this book is no exception to that emerging rule, but I’d have to question when the blurb compares the “epic scope” of The Fireman with The Passage. Thankfully though it also got it wrong when it drew a line between Hill’s novel and The Road – The Fireman is much more accessible and a lot less pretentious.


BOOK REVIEW: STALLO

Secret societies, conspiracies, kidnapping and trolls, yes trolls, sure what else would you need to create a seriously literate supernatural thriller? Throw into the mix the varied and mythical landscape of Sweden and characters that are both immediately everyday and extraordinary, and you get a novel that makes you want to read at double speed just to see what happens next.


BOOK REVIEW: THE WHITE ROAD

In this the fourth Charlie Parker outing, John Connolly takes a definite step nearer to the supernatural. The move from Maine to the deep south adds another flavour to the tale and allows Connolly’s lyrical style to flourish. He makes good use of the combination of standard crime thriller and supernatural horror story to maintain his own brand of thriller.


BOOK REVIEW: THE TREES

I have to confess it was the amazing cover that attracted me to this book in the first place. It deserves to be framed and put on a wall so that every time you pass it by you can pause and see something new that appeals to your eye. Happily the novel, The Trees, actually lives up to the cover and in many ways is equally appealing on a visual level. The descriptives passages immerse you in the forest setting without distracting in any way from the story itself.


BOOK REVIEW: THE KILLING KIND

The third instalment in the Charlie Parker detective series introduces us to Elias Pudd and his secret weapon of eight-legged assassins. A long-time arachnophobe I squirmed my way through the passages where Pudd does his dirty work. Enough to keep me awake and begging for more.


BOOK REVIEW: DARK HOLLOW

The second in the Charlie Parker series is every bit as chilling and thrilling as the debut novel. Connolly, rather cheekily some might think, manages to move his hero to Maine and then turn the dial up on the supernatural elements of the tale. Cheeky because the master of horror, Stephen King, based his tales of the unexpected in Maine also. The risk paid off though and this novel holds its own in comparison to anything King has produced.


REVIEW: ONE MILLION DUBLINERS

I don’t normally review documentary films because I don’t watch that many, but One Million Dubliners is such a special film that I just can’t ignore it. Dublin, my hometown, is the capital city of Ireland and home to more than 500,000 people – Dublin county has a population of almost 2 million (almost 40% of the population of the republic). Glasnevin Cemetery is one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in the country and within its walls there are buried nearly twice as many deceased Dubliners are there are living Dubliners in the city itself.


BOOK REVIEW: HEART SHAPED BOX

This is Joe Hill’s debut novel and as such it justifies all of the nice things said about it by other authors. The writing is articulate without falling into the trap of being pretentious and it spares the reader from the over descriptive prose that ghost stories often subject us to.


BOOK REVIEW: CITY OF THE LOST

Kelley Armstrong is best known for her supernatural thrillers but on this occasion she ventures into the world of detective fiction giving us a new hero in Detective Casey Duncan. I’ve reviewed other novels by Kelley Armstrong and the vast majority of them I really like and for a very good reason. She delivers on plot, keeping you interested in the “what happens next” element of the story, but most of all she creates characters that you connect to and care about.


BOOK REVIEW: EVERY DEAD THING

Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker is as robust a detective fiction character as any of the greats – including Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade and Harry Bosch – with a complexity that satisfies the reader and avoids any of the cliches. Parker is a sympathetic bad boy with a reason for revenge and an unapologetic approach to how he achieves it. Former cop turned less than stunningly successful private eye, he takes on the real world villains while searching for the focus of his vengeful anger.


BOOK REVIEW: NORSE MYTHOLOGY

Neil Gaiman introduces us to his collection of Norse Myths by pointing out his introduction to this rich mine of fantastical stories was through Marvel’s Thor™ as a child. I had an immediate resonance with the book because I too became aware and subsequently engrossed in Norse mythology in exactly the same way. Despite the limited source material available to him he manages to make the strange adventures of Odin, Thor and Loki fresh and modern.


BOOK REVIEW: BRYANT & MAY-PECULIAR CRIMES

As with all book series some novels are better than others, but without a doubt, the Bryant & May series of detective novels deserve their place amongst the best of the genre. If you like well written British crime novels with a cast of quirky characters and tonnes of twists and turns then this series is most definitely for you.


BOOK REVIEW: THE SEA OF SHADOWS

The Otherworld series of novels really placed New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong on the map and deservedly so since every one of the 13 novels maintained a standard of writing that made the characters and plot accessible without stooping to formulaic repetition. I admit I was hooked early on and eagerly awaited the publication of each instalment in the series.


BOOK REVIEW: THE GREEN ROAD

There’s a short list of modern Irish novels I would describe as being privileged to have read – Amongst Women by John McGahern and The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor for example. The Green Road by Anne Enright is the newest entrant on that very short list. Anne Enright has been appointed the first Irish Laureate for Literature and this novel alone will demonstrate exactly why that role is so well deserved.


BOOK REVIEW: THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS

I think it’s only fair to admit I’m a big fan of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels and I opened this book with high expectations of a standard of writing that elevates a modern novel towards real literature; I wasn’t disappointed. The language and descriptive prose are of Connolly’s usual high quality, but it at no time overpowers the story or the flow of the narrative. In fact the subject matter lends itself well to the considered turn of phrase that characterises this author’s work.


MOVIE REVIEW: SOLACE (2015)

This movie is most memorable for me because it once again allows Colin Farrell demonstrate the fact that he can hold the screen no matter whom he shares it with. Anthony Hopkins is a dab hand at stealing the screen (okay maybe not in Van Helsing) but Farrell makes sure that doesn’t happen in Solace.


BOOK REVIEW: BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS

I’ve been one of King’s ‘constant readers’ ever since I came across a second-hand copy of his first short fiction collection Night Shift in the 70s. As with most writers with a canon of work as vast as his (and there aren’t that many), he has sagged a bit from time-to-time but in my opinion his short fiction collections never let you down.


MOVIE REVIEW: PAY THE GHOST (2015)

There’s nothing new here – a couple, a kid, a ghost, an unbelieving cop, a broken relationship, a psychic (shades of poltergeist) and a lot of over-acting.


MOVIE REVIEW: HIDDEN (2015)

This is a story about a husband and wife who are trapped in a fallout shelter with their 7-year-old daughter for a prolonged period following a major disaster. That doesn’t sound riveting I admit, but if you were to judge the movie on that basic premise you’d be wrong.


MOVIE REVIEW: THE BLING RING

I’ll keep this short because the movie The Bling Ring has stolen enough of my life and I don’t want to contribute any more precious time to it than I absolutely have to. Based on a true story usually means there’s enough substance to keep you interested but in this case even that failed. The story follows a number of spoiled Hollywood brats who discover that Hollywood celebrities are quite a dull crowd and can’t even lock their doors when they’re away, never mind have a house alarm installed (Orlando Bloom being the exception but he is a Brit after all).


MOVIE SEASON

  I’m of a vintage that makes me old enough to remember a time when one of the most exciting things about Christmas was the fact that almost every channel (there were 4) had a Big Movie – around two years old – premiering on either Christmas Day or New […]


5 FAVOURITE FICTIONAL DETECTIVES

I have all my life loved detective characters from books, movies and TV. When well written they’re always well developed, colourful and clever with a keen eye for detail and an easy command of the application of logic. Most of all though they read people, a skill I value very highly. It’s very difficult for me to whittle down all of those intelligent men and women to a list of five favourites but I’ve really enjoyed trying.


OLD DOG:NEW TRICKS

Having been abandoned by the Ban Chéile while she took on a week long tour of conference engagements (or gigs as I like to call them) in Poland, I sat last week staring mindlessly at the Goggle Box. Up popped a very popular British cop drama called New Tricks- 7 million viewers an episode on terrestrial TV.


MOVIE REVIEW: THE HOST

“What the heck”, I said to myself, “why not review both the novel The Host by Stephenie Meyer and the subsequent movie of the same name?” “Why the heck not?” exclaimed the little voice in my head, but something deep beneath the surface of my tiny mind kept screaming out a warning.


MOVIE REVIEW: THE HOBBIT

As a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings movies and an avid reader of the books of JRR Tolkien I had a bunch of mixed emotions tying tiny knots in my stomach when I sat down to watch the DVD of The Hobbit. For a myriad of reasons I missed the movie when it was in the cinema and held off watching the DVD version for as long as I could in fear of being disappointed. In the end I wasn’t seriously disappointed but I was a little underwhelmed.


BOOK REVIEW: ALIF THE UNSEEN

Alif The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson would appear to have it all – well drawn characters, a good plot and enough pace to make you turn the pages, but even though I really enjoyed reading it there wasn’t any moment throughout the book that made me think “ah!”. Set in a fictitious ‘city’ in Arabia ruled by a corrupt Emir and his regime, with a plot played out against a backdrop of the Arab Spring, linked to the rich tapestry of middle eastern mythology and focusing on a main character steeped in the world of technology has to be a formula for success and the author handles all of these aspects with finesse.


BOOK REVIEW: HOUSE ON AN IRISH HILLSIDE

House On An Irish Hillside by Felicity Hayes-McCoy was a bit of a shot in the dark for me because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I bought the book because I wanted to read more autobiographical or memoir based writing to help me with another project I’m working on and so the concept seemed appropriate. In fact, the book, while most definitely a memoir, is much more significant than simply an account of one life (or in this case two).


THE BLARNEY STONE – BORDEAUX!

Something we don’t do on holiday is frequent Irish Pubs, mostly because we can do that at home and frankly the “Irish Pubs” abroad are often dark and scruffy places that don’t reflect actual pubs in Ireland (not since the early 20th century anyway).


BOOK REVIEW: WRATH OF ANGELS

I realise waiting until the 11th novel in a sequence is not the best way to introduce oneself to a writer or his by now legendary character, but having said that it didn’t hinder me in any way from enjoying Wrath of Angels by John Connolly or accepting Charlie Parker as the detective I’d most likely turn to in an emergency. Apparently Connolly writes each novel to be read either as a standalone experience or part of a ‘sequence’ rather than a ‘series’ and that paid off for me because while I picked up the existence of a rich past history shared by a number of the characters I didn’t get the feeling I was left out of a private joke


BOOK REVIEW: HEAVEN’S SHADOW

Heaven’s Shadow by David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt is a novel set against a background of space expeditions by NASA in 2019. The planned space race by the US and a coalition of India, Russia and Brazil to be the first moon landing of the 21st century turns into something much more when a Near Earth Object appears in our solar system and is on a trajectory that might allow for an actual landing on the object.