Review: Broken Harbour by Tana French

Review: Broken Harbour by Tana FrenchBroken Harbour by Tana French
Also by this author: , The Likeness
Published by Hachette Ireland on June 1st 2012
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
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four-stars
In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin - half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned - two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder squad's star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.

Scorcher's personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent 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 Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .

I am fast running out of Tana French novels, what am I going to do? It’s hard to believe, for me at least, that I only discovered my first novel by her in September last year as she has fast become one of my all-time favourites and I hate to think I only have one of her novels (strangely and unintentionally her first) left to read. Broken Harbour goes down as my third favourite of French’s novels, third out of four that I’ve read, which doesn’t sound great but I assure you it is, I really loved this novel and how it managed to completely draw me in and have me guessing and changing my mind and not being sure and just not knowing from beginning to end.

Broken Harbour was the novel I was most looking forward to reading as part of my Irish Reading Month.

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Review: The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

Review: The Girl in the Photograph by Kate RiordanThe Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan
Published by Penguin Books Limited (UK) on January 15th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
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four-stars
When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts – none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton, whose only trace remains in a few tantalizingly blurred photographs. Why will no one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?

As the sun beats down relentlessly, Alice becomes ever more determined to unearth the truth about the girl in the photograph – and stop her own life from becoming an eerie echo of Elizabeth's...

The Girl in the Photograph called to me because of the comparisons to Rebecca, which I adore because as I’ve said recently and repeatedly in the past, Daphne du Maurier is completely wonderful. I’d be lying if I said I felt the same excitement for this novel but I did enjoy it and I loved getting to know Alice in her strange surroundings as she finds anything (as indeed I believe anyone would) to occupy all the hours she has to spend basically alone.

Alice’s story is simple really, she is there to give birth and then return home and give up the baby but still, being pregnant at Fiercombe appears to be something to be worried about and as much as Alice tries to get through the experience unharmed and unworried,it does appear that the more she finds out about Elizabeth, the more she compares her life to the former Lady of the Manor.

I found Riordan’s scene setting fantastic and I really felt the sinister atmosphere at Fiercombe Manor, which soon gives way to sadness and the more I learned about Elizabeth I knew there couldn’t be a happy ending and I just hoped there would be some sense of happiness in the novel and with the present day there is a sense that history won’t be repeated. This is quite a hard novel to write about because of all the potential spoilers but Riordan creates a really fantastic and subtle atmosphere which is able to develop and change several times, almost growing with the novel and taking on the characteristics and moods of the characters.

Themes within the novel include motherhood, pregnancy, mental illness and grief, a hell of a lot of grief. Riordan’s scene setting is the best feature of this book.

Review: The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel

Review: The Strings of Murder by Oscar de MurielThe Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel
Published by Penguin UK on February 12th 2015
Genres: Crime, Fiction, General, Historical, Mystery & Detective, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
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four-half-stars
A spellbinding concoction of crime, history and horror - perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes and Jonathan Creek. Edinburgh, 1888. A violinist is murdered in his home. The dead virtuoso's maid swears she heard three musicians playing in the night. But with only one body in the locked practice room - and no way in or out - the case makes no sense.

Fearing a national panic over another Ripper, Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specializing in the occult. However, Frey's new boss, Detective 'Nine-Nails' McGray, actually believes in such supernatural nonsense. McGray's tragic past has driven him to superstition, but even Frey must admit that this case seems beyond reason. And once someone loses all reason, who knows what they will lose next...

Ooh am I pleased I picked this book out or what?! Simple and enjoyable crime fiction with an enjoyable clever twist and a historical context to boot, what’s not to like? I picked The Strings of Murder out of the many books on my Netgalley Reading List (oops) because I loved the sound of the synopsis and I loved the setting and I was intrigued to see how the musical theme would come through. I think I’m in a bit of a musical phase at the moment, with my love of The Thrill of it All by Joseph O’Connor kicking it all off. Of course I didn’t expect the same from The Strings of Murder as I did from The Thrill of it All but I got what I wanted, a fast-paced, bloody and murderous crime novel where the investigating protagonist couldn’t quite keep up with his culprit and I was kept guessing.

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Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie BurtonThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Published by Pan Macmillan on July 3rd 2014
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Literary
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
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four-stars
On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .

Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

There are hundreds of reviews of The Miniaturist out there and I’m not sure what I can add to them, except that this book took me some time to get drawn into but once it had me, it had me. Perhaps not the most eloquent expression out there but there we go. The Miniaturist was on the periphery of my, should-I-be-buying-that radar and I did in fact download it to listen to but then it turned up in my awesome little pile of Mother’s Day goodness and I started it immediately. I have always had a habit of needing to read books that are presents absolutely as soon as possible and so I chucked myself a third of the way through The Miniaturist on Mother’s Day itself and then paced myself through the rest.

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Review: The Thrill of it All by Joseph O’Connor

Review: The Thrill of it All by Joseph O’ConnorThe Thrill of it All by Joseph O'Connor
Published by Random House on May 15th 2014
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 416
Format: Audiobook
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five-stars
At college in 1980s Luton, Robbie Goulding, an Irish-born teenager, meets the elusive Fran Mulvey, an orphaned Vietnamese refugee. Together they form a band. Joined by cellist Sarah-Thérèse Sherlock and her twin brother Seán on drums, The Ships in the Night set out to chase fame. But the story of this makeshift family is haunted by ghosts from the past.

Spanning 25 years, The Thrill of it All rewinds and fast-forwards through an evocative soundtrack of struggle and laughter. Infused with blues, ska, classic showtunes, New Wave and punk, using interviews, lyrics, memoirs and diaries, the tale stretches from suburban England to Manhattan’s East Village, from Thatcher-era London to the Hollywood Bowl, from the meadows of the Glastonbury Festival to a wintry Long Island, culminating in a Dublin evening in July 2012, a night that changes everything.

I held off writing this review because I really loved this book. It reminded me how much I love music and how much I miss it in some ways. I loved the structure of the book, with sections from modern day Robbie as well as interview excerpts, diary excerpts and more from the past. It felt real but in a way that a real biography doesn’t as these characters felt, more interesting because I hadn’t heard their music and I couldn’t have an opinion one way or the other. I would quite like to hear The Ships music though.

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Some Books

What an inspiring title right? Well, that’s where I’m at. I’ve had the joy of a Love2Shop Voucher thanks to switching Telephone/TV/Broadband provider and discussion with the rest of the peoplein this house (not that I told the four year old much, she’d have had it all) – I ended up with the bulk of the vouchers myself as the girls wanted Beanie Babies and Andy hasn’t yet decided what he’s buying but he’s got his few left. The bulk of the vouchers meant £60 and I managed to blow £50 quite quickly on this pile of beauties:

2015-03-20 18.09.57

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Review: The Barrytown Trilogy by Roddy Doyle

Review: The Barrytown Trilogy by Roddy DoyleThe Barrytown Trilogy by Roddy Doyle
Published by Random House on November 21st 2013
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 632
Format: Paperback
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four-half-stars
Here, in one volume, are Roddy Doyle’s three acclaimed novels about the Rabbitte family from Barrytown, Dublin. In them we follow the rapid rise of Jimmy Rabbitte’s soul band, the Commitments, and their equally rapid fall; Sharon Rabbitte’s attempts to keep the identity of her unborn child’s father a secret, amid intense speculation from her family and friends; and the fortunes of the travelling fish ‘n’ chips van that Jimmy Rabbitte Sr and his friend Bimbo launch for the good people of Barrytown.

The Commitments

Barrytown, Dublin, has something to sing about.

The Commitments are spreading the gospel of the soul. Ably managed by Jimmy Rabbitte, brilliantly coached by Joey 'The Lips' Fagan, their twin assault on Motown and Barrytown takes them by leaps and bounds from the parish hall to the steps of the studio door.

But can The Commitments live up to their name?

The Snapper

Meet the Rabbitte family, motley bunch of loveable ne'er-do-wells whose everyday purgatory is rich with hangovers, dogshit and dirty dishes. When the older sister announces her pregnancy, the family are forced to rally together and discover the strangeness of intimacy.

But the question remains: which friend of the family is the father of Sharon's child?

The Van

Jimmy Rabbitte is unemployed and rapidly running out of money. His best friend Bimbo has been made redundant at the company where he has worked for many years. The two old friends are out of luck and out of options. That is, until Bimbo finds a dilapidated 'chipper van' and the pair decide to go into business...

I love Roddy Doyle. I keep starting reviews with I love this, I love that but I really do love Roddy Doyle and I have yet to read one of his books and not love it. The Paula Spencer novels are ones that I can read again and again, he’s wonderful but before now I had never read any of The Barrytown Trilogy. I had never had the privilege of meeting Jimmy Rabbitte. Of the three novels The Commitments was by far my favourite but I loved reading them all in one long go, it meant I really felt like I was getting in with the Rabbittes and the other characters around them.

The Barrytown Trilogy is the Dublin: One City, One Book choice for 2015 and though I’m not anything to do with Dublin, I do adore the city and I chose this book as a birthday present because I saw it had been announced for that honour in this year. It was also an essential choice for my Irish Reading Month.

Anyway, back to the books.

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Review: The Parasites by Daphne Du Maurier

Review: The Parasites by Daphne Du MaurierThe Parasites by Daphne Du Maurier
Published by Virago on 2005
Pages: 337
Format: Audiobook
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four-stars
'When people play the game: Name three or four persons whom you would choose to have with you on a desert island -- they never choose the Delaneys. They don't even choose us one by one as individuals. We have earned, not always fairly we consider, the reputation of being difficult guests...'

Maria, Niall and Celia have grown up in the shadow of their famous parents - their father, a flamboyant singer and their mother, a talented dancer. Now pursuing their own creative dreams, all three siblings feel an undeniable bond, but it is Maria and Niall who share the secret of their parents' pasts. Alternately comic and poignant, The Parasites is based on the artistic milieu its author knew best, and draws the reader effortlessly into that magical world.

I love Daphne Du Maurier and think pretty much everybody should. It has been a long while since I’ve read anything by her and decided it’d be a nice change for my Audible choice for the month. I don’t know what I was expecting, my adoration of My Cousin Rachel is unlikely to be met but I found myself completely wrapped up in the lives of the Delaneys and the people around them, it’s hard not to when you’re carrying them around with you and listening to them wherever you go.

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Four Books about Mothers

4booksIt’s Mother’s Day. Yay for mothers. I’m one of those, not that I’m sure I really…embody it in the way some people manage to (who cares right?) and I have an awesome one of my own which makes me very lucky but as I don’t really share the personal stuff here as much as I have done previously I’ve decided my only tribute to Mother’s Day here is going to be another Four Books post. Four Books about Mothers. I enjoyed all of these books although they’re not necessarily chosen because the represent the best of motherhood, more than they simply, represent it in some way or there are mothers integral to each chosen novel. They’re amongst my favourite books about mothers (or featuring mothers) anyway.

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Review: Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

Review: Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh NguyenPioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen
Published by Penguin Group USA on January 27th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Cultural Heritage, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 304
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three-stars
Jobless with a PhD, Lee Lien returns home to her Chicago suburb from grad school, only to find herself contending with issues she’s evaded since college. But when her brother disappears, he leaves behind an
object from their mother’s Vietnam past that stirs up a forgotten childhood dream: a gold-leaf brooch, abandoned by an American reporter in Saigon back in 1965, that might be an heirloom belonging to Laura Ingalls Wilder. As Lee explores the tenuous facts of this connection, she unearths more than expected—a trail of clues and enticements that lead her from the dusty stacks of library archives to hilarious prairie life reenactments and ultimately to San Francisco, where her findings will transform strangers’ lives as well as her own.

A dazzling literary mystery about the true origins of a time-tested classic,Pioneer Girl is also the deeply moving tale of a second-generation Vietnamese daughter, the parents she struggles to honor, the missing brother she is expected to bring home—even as her discoveries yield dramatic insights that will free her to live her own life to its full potential.

I had a copy of The Little House on the Prairie that I never read. It was hardback and I have looked and looked online but I can’t find a copy the same as my own. It had an illustration on the front and there was definitely gingham involved, there would have to be wouldn’t there? Anyway, back from my detours into the childhood books I never got around to and onto Pioneer Girl a strange little novel which has both moments of brilliance and moments where I wanted more.

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