All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell

It’s June already and the sun is shining. I am pleased to share my review for Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell. I was drawn to this novel because of it’s setting, Dubai. My knowledge of this city is minimal but it sounds exotic, stunning and since I’ve sent one of my character’s husband in my WIP out there to work I thought it was time to learn more. Google is great but there is nothing like a good book to bring a place to life. Thank you Random Things Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing me with a copy to read so i could give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Book Review: Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell

Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell

Title: Diving for Pearls

Author: Jamie O’Connell

Publisher: Doubleday

Genre: general fiction, crime

Release date: 3rd June 2021

Blurb

‘A hugely engaging novel from a talented new writer’ JOHN BOYNE

‘A compelling tale uncovering a world of secrets, injustice and, for the lucky few, escape’ 
ANNE GRIFFIN, author of WHEN ALL IS SAID

A young woman’s body floats in the Dubai marina. Her death alters the fates of six people, each one striving for a better life in an unforgiving city…

A young Irish man comes to stay with his sister, keen to erase his troubled past in the heat of the Dubai sun. A Russian sex worker has outsmarted the system so far – but will her luck run out? A Pakistani taxi driver dreams of a future for his daughters. An Emirate man hides the truth about who he really is. An Ethiopian maid tries to carve out a path of her own. From every corner of the globe, Dubai has made promises to them all. Promises of gilded opportunities and bright new horizons, the chance to forget the past and protect long-held secrets.

But Dubai breaks its promises, with deadly consequences. In a city of mirages, how do you find your way out?O’Connell expertly weaves a delicate web of intertwining stories, combining dark wit, and devastating emotional truth as fates collide and lives are shattered.

My Thoughts

Diving for Pearls has beautiful cover which suits the location of Dubai perfectly, and it was a joy to hold.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel but the premise drew me in as did the location. I knew the bare minimum about Dubai, so this tale was an eye opener because it gave an insight into this city, which can be the provider of dreams and wealth but also horror and poverty. There are many realistic characters all with flaws and it gave a snapshot into their lives against the backdrop of the death of a young woman. It took a while to understand how the protagonists were linked but once the penny dropped, I enjoyed it more.

The main focus is on an Irish family living in Dubai, Siobhan with her sons and her brother, Trevor, who is visiting. It showcased the overwhelming wealth some people have compared to others but also how it can disappear at any point. Wealth and security are superficial and under the surface is fear and corruption. This was horrifying to read. Gete, the family’s maid stood out as the protagonist I loved. She saw it all and was a calming influence when consumerism wins over family time and discipline. Her inner strength and belief shined through. I would love her to have her own sequel so I could see what she does next. This novel reads like a movie, dipping into the lives without lingering so some of the connection I wanted to have with some characters was lost. In the main, I think this style suited the story but some character’s stories felt unresolved.

The strength of this novel was the ability to create a visual scene in my mind mind and transport me to Dubai, I could feel the sand, heat and air conditioning. The location felt real and atmospheric. Usually when this is the case, the location is added to my setting wish list but despite the draw of large fish tank in a mall, this novel has scared me into staying at home.

Would I recommend?

Yes, it’s different and there is plenty to discuss if read as a book club read. I enjoyed discovering the location without the travel. It was well researched with memorable characters. It’s a debut novel I will remember and feel it could easily be translated to a tv series.

Author Biography

Author Jamie O’Connell

JAMIE O’CONNELL has had short stories highly commended by the Costa Short Story Award and the Irish Book Award Short Story of the Year. He has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines Short Story Competition and shortlisted for the Maeve Binchy Travel Award and the Sky Arts Futures Fund. He has an MFA and MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin. He has worked for Penguin Random House, Gill Books and O’Brien Press. Diving for Pearls is his first novel.

Have you ever been to Dubai or read other books set in this location? I’d love to know in the comments below.

Happy reading and writing!

Love

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Book Review: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Finally, it is my turn to review Threadneedle by Cari Thomas and take part in this magical blog tour with Random Things Tour. For those who regularly follow my blow, you know much I love magic and witchcraft fiction so I could not resist the invite to read this advanced copy when I read the blurb. Scroll down to see if it met my expectations.

Book Review: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Title: Threadneedle

Author: Cari Thomas

Publisher: Voyager

Genre: YA fantasy, witchlit

Release date: 27th May 2021

Blurb

Anna’s aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences. Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever. Until she meets Effie and Attis. They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revellers lose themselves in a haze of spells. But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her aunt was right all along. Is her magic a gift…or a curse? Told through spells created with knots and threads, this is a story that is both innovative and based in traditional witchcraft.

My Thoughts

Where do I start? The physical copy of this book is a joy to hold with its red edges and stunning, vibrant cover. On opening, there is map and I’m a sucker for maps in books, they lure you into a story and add to the excitement of discovering the setting. It adds to the promise that there is a treat inside, and this novel doesn’t fail to deliver. It left me with a crushing book hangover for days.

Threadneedle is intense with a background tension which builds up to a crescendo of a climax that I would never have guessed, despite all the clues cleverly threaded throughout. It’s beautiful, and dark with impressive magical world building blended into reality. The depth and multi-layering means it could easily reread* and allow the reader to discover more about the characters and setting. Some of the imagery of the magic and punishments endured is so powerful it made me believe the book was created by magic itself. It is immersive so I felt Anna’s emotions – her confusion and pain while living with her controlling Aunt and her wonderment at the magic beneath her fingertips and in the locations she visits when she meets Effie. They are deliciously imaginative especially the library for witches and the second-hand shop. Part school drama, it is reminiscent of Heathers, The Craft and Stephen King’s Carrie but has an original feel. The characters are unique, memorable and made me think they were real while reading and beyond.

I love witch and magic themed books but this one is worlds ahead of the best. It has left me reeling in shock and in awe. It left me wanting to read more and I can’t wait to read more from this author. Not since the first reading of Deathly Hallows in the midst of Harry Potter mania has a book hit the spot like this. In fact, forget Hogworts I want to go on a tour of the Threadneedle locations.

Would I recommend?

Yes, it has become one of my favourite books and I know it will be  on permanent  loan from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf by young and old customers. If you love witchlit, magic or a good YA fantasy this is a must to try. I long to be with fellow book lovers to talk about this for hours. It’s that type of book you don’t want to keep to yourself deserves to be loved, unravelled, discussed and then reread. *I have read it twice but also listening to it on Audible.

Author Biography:

Cari Thomas

Cari Thomas has always loved magic, inspired by her upbringing among the woods and myths of Wales’
Wye Valley. She studied English and Creative Writing at Warwick University and Magazine Journalism at
The Cardiff School of Journalism. Her first job was at teen Sugar magazine where she ran the book club and
quickly realized she wanted to be the one writing the books instead. She went on to work at a creative
agency, spending her spare time researching magic and accumulating an unusual collection of occult books.
She wrote her debut novel Threadneedle while living in London, wandering the city and weaving it with
all the magic she wished it contained. She now lives in Bristol with her husband and son, who bears the
appropriately Celtic name of Taliesin.

A note from Cari Thomas:


I remember the old family stories about my Great Aunt Mary. A fiercely independent,
enigmatic woman who was said to be a witch. Perhaps it was these early stories
seeping into my subconscious, perhaps it was devouring The Worst Witch, or growing
up in rural Wales surrounded by myth and fairy tales, or maybe it was just me, but
from a young age I developed a fascination for all things witches and magic.
But let’s not forget that the witch’s hut always sits outside of the village for a reason.
In my research, I became just as obsessed with magic’s opposite forces – repression,
fear, suspicion and prejudice. After all, if my Great Aunt Mary had been alive a few
centuries earlier she may well have been burnt at the stake.


Witch hunts became an area of fascination for me and the more I read the more outraged I became – how powerful, outspoken women and men, or people of the pagan faith, or simply outsiders, have
time and time again been suppressed, silenced and extinguished from society. How the power structure of the day meant that it was near impossible for them to have a voice and to defend themselves.


Why was it such people terrified those in power? Why were we not taught more about this dark period of history? Why did the themes feel like they still resonated so strongly today?
I explore these tensions in Threadneedle- the freedoms of magic set against a fear of witches and feminine power; schoolgirls forced to take on the injustices of the world one spell at a time.
The sheer joy of writing the book came in bringing these tensions into the modern world and particularly into the London setting we think we know.


Ultimately, this is where the heart of the story lies: in feminine power and sisterhood. It brings together an unlikely set of outsiders, who together must navigate their way through the light and dark of being a young woman in today’s world. A world that is more complex than ever and yet still plagued by many of the same issues that my Great Aunt Mary would have faced, and all the witches who came before her.

Happy reading and writing!

Love

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