Publisher: Viking

April 27, 2017

Review | Broken Harbor by Tana French

Review | Broken Harbor by Tana FrenchBroken Harbor by Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad, #4
Publisher: Viking, July 2012
Pages: 450
Format: Hardcover
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The mesmerizing fourth novel of the Dublin murder squad by New York Times bestselling author Tana French
Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, the brash cop from Tana French’s bestselling Faithful Place, plays by the book and plays hard. That’s what’s made him the Murder squad’s top detective—and that’s what puts the biggest case of the year into his hands.

On one of the half-built, half-abandoned "luxury" developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care.

At first, Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, think it’s going to be an easy solve. But too many small things can’t be explained. The half dozen baby monitors, their cameras pointing at holes smashed in the Spains’ walls. The files erased from the Spains’ computer. The story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder who was slipping past all the locks.

And Broken Harbor holds memories for Scorcher. Seeing the case on the news sends his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family one summer at Broken Harbor, back when they were children.

With her signature blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, French’s new novel goes full throttle with a heinous crime, creating her most complicated detective character and her best book yet.

A home invasion in a small seaside town in Britain leaves a family destroyed. For any other murder detective, this case might be too much to handle, but for murder detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, it’s his job. But when the case starts to bring back painful personal memories, Mick wonders if it’s time to throw in the towel…or work harder than ever to catch the killer.

Heading to the wanna-be luxury complex of Broken Harbor to investigate a brutal murder isn’t easy for any detective, but for Scorcher, it’s especially painful. That’s what makes him a winner in French’s fourth Dublin Murder Squad installment: he’s a naturally complex character. By-the-book on the job, caught in a family conflict, and unsure of where his life is headed next, Scorcher isn’t just any old cop. It’s this complex perspective that makes Broken Harbor so compelling to read.

I loved the interactions between Scorcher, his rookie partner, the ME, and the rest of the crew. Each has such memorable personalities that complement Mick and the plot itself perfectly. French weaves each character interaction, step and motivation so deliberately that you don’t realize the masterfulness of her work until the back cover closes.

To say Broken Harbor kept me on my toes is an understatement. There was never a dull moment from the first moment Scorcher and Richie step into the blood-splattered house to the final page. It was the constant conflicts that come with everyday life –  problems with coworkers, family fights, broken hearts – combined with the powerful of mystery of just who did it that brought this police procedural to life like few books I’ve read before.

For me, Broken Harbor is a definitely a winner, and one I can’t wait to read again. Have you read any of French’s Dublin Murder Squad? Which one should I read next?

4 Stars

Posted April 27, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 26, 2016

Review | The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller

Review | The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs WallerThe Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller
Publisher: Viking, March 2016
Pages: 392
Format: Hardcover
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Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls barely know their father, a plant hunter usually off adventuring through China. Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan reneges on his contract to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid. He will be thrown into debtors’ prison while his daughters are sent to the orphanage and the workhouse.
Elodie can’t stand by and see her family destroyed, so she persuades her father to return to China once more to try to hunt down the flower—only this time, despite everything she knows about her place in society, Elodie goes with him. She has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China. But now, even if she can find the orchid, how can she ever go back to being the staid, responsible Elodie that everybody needs?

It started the moment Elodie showed Deacon Wainwright the plant, the forbidden orchid blooming on top of the glass house her father built for her younger sisters. Soon, Elodie’s family is caught up in their father’s world, a place of mystique, secrets, and men that will stop at nothing to get what they want. Can Elodie save her family and her father’s reputation in the wilds of China?

I had some with this book, issues that kept the rating at three instead of four stars. While I realize the condescending attitude men showed towards the woman in The Forbidden Orchid may have been historically accurate, it was infuriating. At every turn, Elodie was told she couldn’t speak out, couldn’t ask questions, couldn’t look at an orchid because it might tempt her…Really? This effect would have been offset if there was one (ONE!) man that didn’t look down his nose at a woman, but it was rare. At first, I thought Elodie’s father, famed botanist and adventurer, would be the one but View Spoiler ». The closest was Alex, Elodie’s new husband, but even he had a few moments.

Regardless, I was hooked into The Forbidden Orchid from the first chapter. I loved the dynamics between Elodie and her nine sisters, how their mother coped as a woman essentially on her own, and their interactions with the townspeople. The level of detail with even the most minor of characters brought life to the book.

I loved Elodie and Alex’s relationship, although I may have rolled my eyes once or twice (or more) at some of Elodie’s reactions. They had the same sweet, enduring romance that caught my heart when I read Waller’s first foray into YA, A Mad, Wicked Folly. Besides bringing a little bit of light into a rather dark situation, it forced Elodie to grow up in ways she never would have had to in the family home in Kent.

Once Elodie, Alex, and her father land in China, I was hooked. Every detail came alive. I felt like I was walking in an 1800s opium den or riding a horse in the hot Chinese summer. It was vivid, memorable, and extraordinary.

While The Forbidden Orchid has some misses, its hits by far make up for them.

3 Stars

Posted September 26, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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April 4, 2016

Review | Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Review | Saint Anything by Sarah DessenSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking, May 2015
Pages: 417
Format: Hardcover
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Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

There’s always a lot of focus on those involved in accidents. The what-ifs, the wonderings and sometimes the anger. Rarely do we think about those that aren’t directly involved in the accidents, but are just as broken as those who are.

When Sydney’s brother Peyton, the family golden child, starts down a bad road, the family tries to pull him back. But Peyton’s poor decisions end up in a horrible drunk-driving accident and a jail sentence, throwing his and his family’s world into chaos. Sydney’s family, trying to learn how to keep it together, is falling apart: her mother obsession with Peyton’s well-being blinds her to what’s going on in her own home, Sydney’s dad is trying to keep the peace, and Sydney just doesn’t know where she fits in anymore. That all changes when she meets the slightly chaotic but lovable Chatham family.

I’ve read a lot of books that deal with the power of grief, but none that so poignantly portray the painful, long-lasting effects that one person’s actions have on a family. Peyton and the teenager weren’t the only ones harmed by the drunk-driving accident; it shattered many people’s worlds. I like how Dessen met the topic head-on and explored how the decisions we make don’t only affect us, but those we love. Peyton’s decisions affect Sydney, destroying their relationship and her relationship with their parents. The grief and shame Sydney carries with her makes it hard for her to move on, to rebuild her life and relationships.

I loved the warm chaos of the Chathams. They’re the family that always made you feel at home the moment you walked through the door, who didn’t mind if you stopped by just for a chat. The loving support system that emulated from the household was exactly what Sydney needed to get her feet back under her and face her fears.

The one character that left me extremely unnerved (as I think he was intended to) was Peyton’s friend, Ames. Ames is, to put it simply, incredibly creepy. He slowly slides into Peyton’s empty place in the family and (constantly) oversteps his boundaries with Sydney. He acts as a thermostat in the family: early on, Sydney’s parents don’t notice anything strange about his actions, but as the story progresses, the rose-colored glasses come off. Sydney herself can be measured against Ames’ actions in Saint Anything – her disgust at his actions and instinct to stand up for herself grows with the story.

I’m late to the Dessen fan group, but I can say that this won’t be my last novel of hers. Saint Anything was clever, occasionally funny and incredibly heart-warming.

4 Stars

Posted April 4, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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