THE WITCH ELM by Tana French | Review

Amazon | TBD | Goodreads

528 Pages

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

I don’t think it’s any surprise to say that I absolutely loved this book.

First, let’s address some things:

  • this is a standalone
  • it’s a “slow burn”
  • but it’s absolutely bloody brilliant

Standalone — The Ending . . . ? (no spoilers)

Yes! This book, unlike the rest of French’s work, is a standalone. I was slightly nervous about this. The idea that there would (probably) be no more of these characters or “world” once the final sentence was read kind of scared me. What if she didn’t wrap it up well?

Why did I ever doubt?

This book . . . let me just say that this book has one of the tightest, most mind-reeling endings I’ve read in a very, very long time. There could have been a more perfect ending for this work.

Slow Burn

This book was not her best rated on Goodreads, because a lot of people complained that the plot didn’t start or pick up until page 250 and because the main character is an ass.

I would argue that they are wrong and that it being a “slow burn” (though I wouldn’t say that, and I’ll explain why in a second) is what makes this possibly French’s best work to date.

The first part of this book is a very, very deep character development-type device that French is a master of. Sure, she could have condensed everything you read up to page 250 into a cool 50 pages, but, I will scream this so the people int he back can hear, YOU CANNOT BUILD A HOUSE WITHOUT A FOUNDATION!!!! I will tell you that I was never once bored when reading this book. Getting to know Toby, his family and the people around him are what make the rest of this and the ending so impactful.

French is a master at this, people! Trust in her skills.

This Book is Bloody Brilliant

No, I am not British.


Am I biased since I have a previously liking to the rest of French’s works? I don’t think so.

This book is so smart, from beginning to end. Even if you figure out the “who”, I guarantee you will not figure out the “why”. And, if for some miraculous reason you do figure that out, I bet you won’t figure out what happens at the end.

French is setting you up. The second you read that first paragraph, you’re trapped, because the last one will have you screaming.

This could possibly be French’s best work to date. If you have not read anything by her yet, please, what are you doing?!?! I implore you: READ THIS ONE!


Have you read anything by Tana French? Have you read The Witch Elm? Let’s chat in the comments!

IN THE WOODS by Tana French | Review

Amazon | TBD | Goodreads

464 Pages

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

It’s probably not a huge secret that Tana French is one of my favorite authors, with The Dublin Murder Squad being one of my favorite series. While this is technically the first book in the series, as I have already read the third, fourth and fifth of this series, you do not have to read them in order.

I started this book after DNFing a book that I was looking forward to and wished so bad to be good. I’m so glad I picked this up to pull me out of that WHAT AM I GOING TO READ NEXT moods.

Starting from the beginning of the novel, I feel that you can tell this is French’s first, and I was scared that it might fall to a four star because of that, but about half-way through, it was redeemed.

This novel is so interesting, in that you can see how to French got her beginnings, and that she has truly had this talent that carries through her other books from the start of her career.

French’s character building makes you think that you could so easily ring up any one of these characters, and they would answer. Her sense of dialogue, suspense, and story craft is phenomenal. One moment she can have you at the edge of your seat, and the next she can have your reeling from emotion, curling your toes from feeling. 

This novel is not an exception.

If you haven’t read French’s work yet, what are you waiting for?


What’s your favorite detective mystery? Let’s chat in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday |Authors I’d Love to Meet

Bijou Media

This is my first ever TTT, which is run by That Artsy Reader Girl!

This week’s theme is Authors I’d Love to Meet! I’m pretty sure if I met any of these people I’d just be a blubbering mess, but here we are.

SJM JK SJ PR Ellen Hopkins
Sarah J. Maas Jay Kristoff

Shirley Jackson


Patrick Rothfuss Ellen Hopkins
JD Jenn Bennett Tana French BL RR

J.D. Salinger


Jenn Bennett Tana French Barry Lyga Rick Riordan

*D connotes Deceased

  • Sarah J. Maas: I was devastated when I found out her final tour for the Throne of Glass series wasn’t going to include any stops near me. I’ve been reading Throne of Glass since the third book was released, and I would just love to have a chat with her.
  • Jay Kristoff: Not only are his books fantastic, he seems like a super fun guy to be around.
  • Shirley Jackson (D): I feel like we’d have some very deep conversations, and it saddens me we’ll never have them.
  • Ellen Hopkins: She is probably, currently, my most read author, and I have yet to meet this woman.
  • J.D. Salinger (D): I don’t know if it saddens me more that I will never meet him now, or that I probably would have never met him when he was alive, either.
  • Jenn Bennett: Starry Eyes got me out a reading rut, and I just feel she’d be really fun to have a drink with (this also goes for Kristoff).
  • Tana French: Oh, my. Thinking of meeting her makes me shaky.
  • Barry Lyga: Jasper Dent was a huge part of my high school years, and I’d love to tell him that in person.
  • Rick Riordan: I’m still upset about the cliffhanger at the end of Mark of Athena, and I’d just like to have some words with him about that.

Are any of these your favorite authors? What are some authors you’d like to meet? Let’s talk in the comments!

THE TRESPASSER by Tana French (Book Review)


464 Pages

I cannot get enough of this author. Ever since I was introduced to her in first semester of University, I have just been amazed by how she can weave a mystery with such memorable characters that I can talk about them to people and confidently name their names. Like, with the amount of books I read, that’s a hard thing to do – making space in my brain for remembering characters well.

Detective Antoinette Conway has been on the Murder Squad for a little while. Constantly being harassed by her teammates for either being a woman or just being disliked, her and her partner, Detective Stephen Moran, they are constantly thrown the garbage murder cases. But when they are given this case of Aislinn Murray, it seems as if it’s just going to be the average domestic – boyfriend gets mad, murders girlfriend. But, as the case unfolds, it seems that something a little more than that is going on, As Detective Conway struggles to find her place among “the boys”, she will soon find out who is her friend, and who has a little more planned for her. Who killed Aislinn Murray?


I am constantly being blown away by Tana French’s prose. This book is no exception. While this is technically the 6th book in a series, there is no pressure to read them in order, which I find to be something I love about this series.

The mystery itself is honestly pretty simple when it first starts off – simple push and the victim hits her head on a fire place. But, as it unfolds, French shows her mastery of the genre as it starts pulling you into different possibilities for what could have happened.

I’m going to admit, this wasn’t my favorite French work. There are a couple reasons.

The first reason, is that for about a quarter of the book, a pretty big chunk, Detective Conway and Moran are entertaining this theory for the case that I feel gets a little overplayed. I’m not going to spoil it, but it’s a pretty big thing, and if they honestly thought that this theory was possible, I felt that they should have taken greater steps to rule it out, but instead they just constantly brood on it. It would be like me saying “I think my mom ate the last cookie” and thinking about it 24/7 and not just going and asking her, but every time I saw her being like “I know she ate the last cookie”, and so it got old after awhile.

The second reason, is that, while I absolutely love Conway, I felt she was a little overbearing sometimes with this whole “everyone’s out to get her” thing. While I fell French plays the idea very well, it sometimes got to a point where it was every other sentence, like “I want to go in the break room to get water, but I bet someone spiked it with arsenic” (not that extreme, but I’m sure you get it).

Now, for what makes this book really good, even with the flaws described above, French just knows how to make a damn good character. Every single character in this book and series could absolutely be a real person. The way she describes their emotions and actions , I feel like I could touch them.

Also, just the mystery itself is fascinating. Minus the detail about the story that I mentioned above, this mystery is absolutely water-tight. This story just manages to keep you constantly interested in “but, if it’s not that, then what could it be”.

Final Rating: 4 out 5

Overall, while this wasn’t my favorite French novel, this is definitely one you shouldn’t pass up. French knows how to make a mystery while offering all of the twists and turns you’d expect. Don’t miss out on her writing.



P.S. Also thinking about getting some actual stars for the visual aspect soon instead of me writing it. We’ll see…

I owe Sara @ The Bibliophagist a shout out for letting me graciously enter her birthday contest.

Also, if you haven’t heard “High Five” by Sigrid yet, you need to check it out, like…now.



I was tagged by the amazing Sara @ The Bibliophagist!!

The Rules:

The Questions

1. What is your favorite genre?

That’s a hard one. But, currently, probably contemporary thrillers or detective mysteries. But, it can very by month or minute.

2. Who is your favorite author from that genre?

Definitely Tana French!! Wow, if you haven’t read a detective mystery by her, you are missing out! The way she intertwines contemporary nuances with the classic mystery is absolutely brilliant. I honestly can’t get enough of her novels.

3. What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?

The thrill of trying to figure out what’s going on! Solving the crime, watching everything unfold and being like AHAA! I KNEW IT or being completely blindsided (usually blindsided haha).

4. What is the book that started your love for that genre?

While I’m still kind of new to it, probably Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. While the book definitely has its flaws (mostly towards the end), this book was the first “adult” thriller I read (senior year of high school), and it had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

5. If you had to recommend at least one book from your favorite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?

Oye, this is a little difficult. I would say something like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. While this is not even close to being in my favorites, I feel like a non-reader would connect with this pretty well, as it has a lot of twists that someone who is unfamiliar with reading a lot might not see coming to keep them interested.

6. Why do you read?

Well, that’s like asking why I breathe.


Becky @ Velvet Spade Reads

Shaz @ Shaz Reads

Kayla @ Books and Blends


Five Word Story

While I’m sure a tag like this has been done before, I felt this post needed a little bit more, so I made up this little ditty.


  • Thank the person who tagged you.
  • Close your eyes, open to random pages, and point your finger on a random word in the last book you have read. Articles do not count.
  • Repeat the above rule 5 times.
  • List the 5 random words you have.
  • Create a 5 sentence flash fiction using your 5 random words. Each sentence must contain at least one word from your list. You can change the tense of the word as needed.
  • Tag 3 people.

My Last Completed Book: The Trespasser by Tana French

5 Random Words:

  1. Disgraceful
  2. Giggles
  3. Making
  4. Stick
  5. Caffeine


The caffeine hit me the second I drank the shot of espresso. I could feel the rush of coffee make my pupils dilate with excitement, tingle my tastebuds – the rush! Everything around me was suddenly in immediate focus – the giggles from the group of girls in the table beside me, the man talking on the phone with his wife, saying he’s almost home even though he was sitting right beside me with a bagel in his hand, the woman ordering a triple, decaf latte, no foam at the counter and sliding the hot barista a $20 bill, telling him to keep the change. It was almost disgraceful at how intimate this all was, what a single boost of energy could do in such a tight space. I could feel the memories of all of this try and stick in my mind, but I knew I would forget it all in a few minutes once the rush subsided.


Sara @ The Bibliophagist

Richard @  Richard Rabil, Jr.

Ivy @ Ivys Well Used Library Card



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I’m going to try and make this short and sweet for you.

I read 2 Full Books:

  • The Secret Place by Tana French; 452 Pages (5.0 / 5.0)
  • Post Office by Charles Bukowski; 208 Pages (N/A)


I completed 2 Books:

  • Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King; 720 Pages (450 in Jan.) (3.5 / 5.0)
  • So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson; 336 Pages (150 in Jan.) (4.0 / 5.0)


Average Rating This Month: 4.0 / 5.0 (4.17 / 5.0)

Approximate Amount of Pages Read This Month: 1,260 Pages



Overall, in terms of page and book count, I thought it was a good month! While I feel the only shining star (not commenting on the Bukowski) was French’s novel. However, I do feel the overall rating came out a little high for my overall enjoyment, really.

But, I can’t complain.

I hope you had a great reading month and great month in general!

Now, don’t expect 1,000+ pages read every month, haha. After all, I am only an English Major.


Daniel xx



THE SECRET PLACE by Tana French (Review)


452 Pages

I was first introduced to Tana French through a Popular Fiction class focusing on Detective Fiction through her novel Faithful Place, and I enjoyed it so much that this book ended up on my Christmas list!

Detective Stephen Moran is bored to death, stuck in Cold Cases. When one day, Holly Mackey, the daughter of the infamous DetectiveJohn Mackey, comes to him with new evidence to the murder of a popular teenage boy at her school, Chris Harper, gone quiet for almost a year. With a card posted on the school bulletin-board that says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM, Moran sees his window to get out of cold cases and into where he really wants to be – The Dublin Murder Squad. Detective Moran soon meets the head Detective on the case – Antionette Conway. Conway, needing a new partner, gives Moran the chance he’s always wanted. But, they both know time is running out on figuring out who killed Chris. Heading to the all-girls Catholic school that this all took place at, the two detectives have one last chance to figure out who killed Chris – with two rival, teenage cliques as the main suspects. Will they be able to tell through the lies? Will Moran be able to prove himself to Conway? Or will the secrets between the tight-nit cliques be their ultimate defeat?

Basic Thoughts


Let me say that again.


I don’t even know how to begin to explain how much I enjoyed this read! Ever since being introduced to French last year, I have been impressed, twice over, by how fantastic her writing is – how flawlessly she can weave a story and somehow not make it directly about the murder, but also make you care LOADS about the characters and what happens to them. And that’s a damn hard thing to do.

While this is apparently the ‘fifth’ book in The Dublin Murder Squad Series, you definitely do NOT need to have read any of the other books. While it could be helpful to have read Faithful Place first, as their are recurring characters and a couple of references to that work (I was unaware of this going in), it is most definitely not necessary.


  • French is an absolutely seamless writer. You will want to read EVERY SINGLE WORD and bathe in them. It’s that good. There were ZERO parts that I found uninteresting or boring.
  • The characters are absolutely stunning. I felt like I could touch them and was their best friend.
  • The interrogation scenes of the suspects are phenomenal. As this is about a quarter of the book, it is a big part, and she manages to keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
  • The prose (writing) are just downright beautiful.


  • Conway could be slightly overbearing in the beginning.
  • While you could take a guess at who did it, it is very hard to be FOR SURE on who did it until it just flat out tells you, but this is a very minor con, as I love finding things out AS the characters do, though I know some readers like to play detective.

Overall View

The mystery, the characters, the dialogue, the everything is something that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. French manages to leave no loose threads in this tightly packed bow of a book.

Every single character is flawless, and it keeps you gasping for air until the very end. Her prose are just downright beautiful – from describing a tree to someone’s deepest, darkest emotion, French knows how to tug at your heart-strings.

As stated above, Detective Conway can be a little over-bearing when you are first introduced to her, but that’s just part of her character. And, as stated above, as well, it was difficult for me to solve the case myself, as you are learning WITH the detectives, which makes ME like it more, but it might be a con to some (however the story does go between past and present to help you have a little insight along the way). I definitely did not see the ending coming, which is one of the main things I look for in Detective Fiction – being fooled!

Final Rating:

Characters: 5.0 / 5.0

Action/Dialogue: 4.5 / 5.0

Overall Story: 5.0 / 5.0



Final Thoughts:


But, like I always say, this is just the honest opinion of an English Major.


Daniel xx