Tag: Historical fiction

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValleThe Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
Published by Tor.com on February 16, 2016
Genres: Horror
Pages: 149
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?

I’ve said before I’m not a Lovecraft fan. Besides his personal beliefs that are repugnant, I find most of his stories hard to get into. I did read him though due to his being the creator of Chulthu. Most modern horror writers pay homage to him in their works so it’s nice to get a good base of what they are drawing from.

LaValle’s “The Ballad of Black Tom” takes one of Lovecraft’s short stories “The Horror at Red Hook” and twists it. I want to high five LaValle for having the main character to be a 20 year old African American man too (especially considering Lovecraft’s racism) who in the end die to what actions have taken against him would be the bringer of the end of humanity as we know it.

Charles Thomas Tester (Tommy) does what he can to take care of himself and his father. Since his mother has died, Charles father has aged practically overnight and barely seems part of the world. Living in Harlem during the Jazz Age has different meaning to African Americans. LaValle smartly gives readers quick looks into the small and big slights made against Tommy and others who are not white. When Tommy takes some work to deliver a book to a very odd woman, there begins an action that will leave repercussions for Charles.

I do love that LaValle in the second part of the story focused the POV on Detective Thomas Malone (a character that appears in Lovecraft’s story too). I loathe Malone. He wants an understanding of the occult and things he can see on the periphery of the world. But is indifferent to the immigrants, African Americans and other races he walks among in Red Hook. He and a private investigator end up entwined with Tommy due to actions they take and I’m probably a terrible person for enjoying what ends up becoming of that character and Malone.

We also get another character from the Lovecraft story (Robert Suydam) who wants to free the African Americans other immigrants from the world they live in. I also took delight into what becomes of him too.

The writing was lyrical to me. I could picture everything while reading. LaValle managed to transport me back to an earlier and uglier time in our country’s history. When Tommy turns away from what he knows after a terrible blow I got it. The book is gruesome in parts so if you have a weak stomach you may want to skip it.

 

” Walking through Harlem first thing in the morning was like being a single drop of blood inside an enormous body that was waking up. Brick and mortar, elevated train tracks, and miles of underground pipe, this city lived; day and night it thrived.”

“He decided to play a role that always worked on whites. The Clueless Negro.”

“Tell me my father’s dead and I’m going to take a  I swing at you, Mr.  Howard said. But these people really don’t have the same connections  I to each other as we do. That’s been  scientifically proven. They’re like ants or bees. Mr. Howard waved one hand at the building beside them. That’s why they can live like this.”

“I’ll take Chulthu over you devils any day.”

The ending was great and LaValle leaves you with a sense of a ticking clock on humanity and Tommy’s own soul.

 

five-stars

Flying Too High (Phryne Fisher #2) by Kerry Greenwood

Flying Too High (Phryne Fisher #2) by Kerry GreenwoodFlying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
Published by Poisoned Pen Press on 1990
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 167
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

Phryne Fisher has her hands full in this, her second adventure. And just when we think she’s merely a brilliant, daring, sexy woman, Phyrne demonstrates other skills, including flying an airplane and doing her own stunts! Phryne takes on a fresh case at the pleading of a hysterical woman who fears her hot-headed son is about to murder his equally hot-headed father. Phryne, bold as we love her to be, first upstages the son in his own airplane at his Sky-High Flying School, then promptly confronts him about his mother’s alarm. To her dismay, however, the father is soon killed and the son taken off to jail. Then a young girl is kidnapped, and Phryne—who will never leave anyone in danger, let alone a child—goes off to the rescue. Engaging the help of Bert and Cec, the always cooperative Detective-Inspector Robinson, and her old flying chum Bunji Ross, Phryne comes up with a scheme too clever to be anyone else’s, and in her typical fashion saves the day, with plenty of good food and hot tea all around. Meanwhile, Phryne moves into her new home at 221B, The Esplanade, firmly establishes Dot as her “Watson,” and adds two more of our favorite characters, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, to the cast.

I think this book is firmly a three star read. We get introduced to Mr. Butler, though in the book series he has a wife. We have Phryne once again being led by her libido. At least she has good deductive reasoning though. Though I will say that whole last act was unnecessary with Phryne and I found myself bored senseless reading about her clothes and how much food she had eaten. She also makes an agreement with one of the culprits in this book that I found to be gross and offf-putting. I am still going to read the next book in the series though.

“Flying Too High” is the second book in the Phryne Fisher series. I fell in love with the tv show and then decided to start reading the books afterwards.

Image result for miss fisher gifs

 

Image result for miss fisher gifs

In the second book we have Phryne investigating two cases. One involving a kidnapped child and another a murder of a man who was detestable in every single way.

The two cases do not relate to one another at all so you are going to have to follow two plot lines.

I can honestly say I don’t care that much for book Phryne at all. She is smart, but I find her ability to sleep with anyone and not care if they are in a relationship or not, not something to be admired.

Book Dot is a bit judgmental of Phryne, but loyal. I did like the parts of the book showing how Dot was so happy to have a room of her own with a door she can lock.

We get reappearances of Detective-Inspector Jack Robinson who has learned to not underestimate Miss Fisher. And we also get Bert and Cec.

The kidnapping case was okay, but I still feel dirty about the deal that Miss Fisher makes with one of the kidnappers. And we find out that Miss Fisher’s grand scheme was unnecessary in the end so I was annoyed about reading it. It didn’t make much sense honestly.

The murder case was a bit too much to swallow for me. I did like the characters in that one, it be nice to see what happens to Amelia and her brother Bill.

The writing was okay, but at times I found myself bored with the endless description of Miss Fisher’s clothes, shoes, and hats. Also I don’t really care what she eats for dinner or tea. There were long soliloquies about tea and I found myself yawning.

The setting of Australia does make this series appealing to me and I do like trying to get a sense of the country from this time period (pre-WWII).

The ending was a little odd though both cases are wrapped up rather neatly.

three-stars

The Wicked Day (Arthurian Saga #4) by Mary Stewart

The Wicked Day (Arthurian Saga #4) by Mary StewartThe Wicked Day by Mary Stewart
Series: Arthurian Saga #4
Published by Eos on May 1st 2003
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 417
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
two-stars

Now, the spellbinding, final chapter of King Arthur's reign, where Mordred, sired by incest and reared in secrecy, ingratiates himself at court, and sets in motion the Fates and the end of Arthur....

Holy moly this was bad. I lost any sense of interest in this book about 1/3 of the way through. I think that Stewart did the best she could. She wanted to keep the legend of Arthur and his Round Table on point as much as possible. However, the characterizations in this whole book were off for me. Arthur pretty much is not that smart. Mordred is just misunderstood. And Guinevere is not bright at all, and is only wanted by every man it seems due to her beauty. I don’t read any of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books anymore, but I still like her look at the King Arthur legend much better than this series because she ties things up a lot better by looking at the growing conflict between the pagan religions and the growing spread of Christianity. She also managed to make every woman and man in the story three dimensional.

The Wicked Day follows a lot of Mallory’s story about the final days of Camelot. Unlike with previous books I just found myself bored since I have read the poems and other books about it. I was hoping for a different spin, but besides a few details that Stewart changes here and there, everything is the same.

I think the thing that threw me a lot though is that this book was more detached than the other three. I think not having Merlin as a narrator in this one hurt the book. I didn’t get a true sense of anyone this time through. As I already said, everyone felt very one dimensional to me. No one had a brain in their head either. Morgause and others who have been causing problems in the last two books are pretty much done away or put aside in a few sentences or two.

I think the ending was supposed to have me feel pity for Mordred, but I didn’t. We just have him laying with a fatal wound knowing that his father was being taken away to be healed.  Considering that he was doing what he could to be crowned king and to take Guinevere as his wife I felt meh towards the guy. I think what gets me is that Mordred falls in “love” with Guinevere and Stewart makes it that he is doing everything he can to have her. I hate story-lines that have it that some poor man had his head turned by a woman and if not for that maybe Mordred could have been a good person.

two-stars

The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart

The Last Enchantment by Mary StewartThe Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart
Series: Arthurian Saga #3
on May 6th 2003
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 513
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
two-stars

Arthur Pendragon is King! Unchallenged on the battlefield, he melds the country together in a time of promise. But sinister powers plot to destroy Camelot, and when the witch-queen Morgause -- Arthur's own half sister -- ensnares him in an incestuous liaison, a fatal web of love, betrayal, and bloody vengeance is woven.

I tried very hard to get into this book. It was so hard. I think that it ended up ending in a weird place and after going forward and reading “The Wicked Day” I really wish that Stewart had ended this book better to just stay away from continuing the Arthurian saga.

There is really not much to say that I haven’t said in the other books. I like Merlin as a narrator, but everyone else is given very little development. The book starts to feel repetitive after a while. The only new thing in this one is that Stewart throws Merlin a curve ball by having him fall in love. Now this character, Nimue ends up being very important to the story, and I do applaud Stewart for having her be a heck of a lot wiser and even stronger than Merlin. But other than that, it’s same old same old. Merlin rides around a lot looking out for Arthur while Arthur is elsewhere doing kingly things. I am being facetious but honestly I was so bored while reading this book. There is very little action.

I was ultimately bored while reading this unfortunately. I think because Stewart didn’t really show me anything new here. We know that Morgause is evil (I say that while twirling my invisible mustache) but I honestly felt more bored by her than anything. I think it’s because Stewart does a lot of telling to the readers about what Morgause is up to so you feel like you are hearing this story from a random guy who tries to chat you up at the bar. You just smile politely hoping he moves on soon so you can go back to drinking your wine/beer/shot.

Since I am really familiar with the legend of King Arthur, his queen, Guinevere, Lancelot, Camelot, etc. I didn’t see anything new under the sun here. I think this book paints Arthur more naive than anything rather than some paragon of virtue.

The last part of the book is seriously Merlin just being told everything while he was “absent” from the story. I think it could have been interesting showing how Merlin’s ability to communicate with the gods was waning and how that left him feeling adrift. Instead this whole book was really about him

I think the ending was abrupt and was lacking some oomph that for all it’s faults that I had with “The Hollow Hills” at least delivered on by having Arthur crowned king. Maybe Stewart should have just ended the book with the end of Camelot instead of trying to stretch that out into a fourth book.

two-stars

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock #1) by Sherry Thomas

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock #1) by Sherry ThomasA Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
Published by Berkley on October 18th 2016
Genres: Retellings, Historical Mystery, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
three-half-stars

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Wow. I can honestly say that after reading “Stalking Jack the Ripper” I was hesitant to read another historical. My big pet peeve is when authors write something taking place in the Regency or Victorian era and have their heroes and heroines pretty much come ripped out of modern times with their thinking and speech. Those worries quickly vanished as I started “A Study in Scarlet Women.” Based on reviews Thomas is a prolific historical romance author and she definitely has her time period nailed down. Do you know now happy I was to read a book where the heroine did something stupid (IMHO) and that she had to pay the consequences for it? That no one was all well you are so modern and awesome in your thinking we are going to totally pretend that you would still be accepted in Polite society.  That said, there were still a few issues I had with “A Study in Scarlet Women” which is why I was only able to give it 3.5 stars.

The book starts off with Livia Holmes thinking of her sister Charlotte and what a strange child she was. What comes through with this though is that Charlotte Holmes is very good at figuring out things about people just based on how they talk, what clothes they wear, and even the way they hold their body. And then we are giving more glimpses into Charlotte Holmes when based on her deduction skills she is able to figure out what a Lothario her father is and why her mother is always angry.  It quickly comes out though is that the Holmes girls (there are four of them) are lonely and Livia and Charlotte only have each other.  The story shifts and move and then Charlotte Holmes is found having relations with a married man by the man’s wife and mother. Due to one of the ladies being a huge gossip everyone quickly knows about Charlotte and when she is taken home her mother and father are also told.  This leads to an ultimatum being issued to Charlotte that she is to be hidden off in the country somewhere which prompts her to run away from home, determined to get work.

From there the book moves onto a character named Inspector Treadles who is concerned that a man he has come to rely on while investigating cases, Sherlock Holmes, is suddenly ill and is not able to respond to entreaties made by him. Treadles uses a Lord Ingram as a go between for Sherlock Holmes and greatly admires both men. We may wonder why in the world Treadles is even in this book, but we quickly find out when it comes out that the mother of the man that was found with Charlotte Holmes is dead and this was after an argument between her and Livia Holmes. Livia is under suspicious when Sherlock Holmes announces this death, and two other ones are connected.

Is that a lot going on for a first book in a series? Yes it is. I also got why some readers ended up DNFing this thing because the first couple of chapters were so slow I found myself bored. Switching perspectives didn’t help matters any either. I also didn’t like that a lot of scenes happened off-screen. We had a lot of things referred to later that I would go, wait a minute, did I miss that?

I found the character of Livia okay, but we don’t spend much time with her after the first initial chapters, we just get her letters that are sent to Charlotte after Charlotte escapes their home. We are then provided information about Livia in the last chapter of the book (she loves to write stories) and after finishing the book, I can see how that is going to play out in subsequent books. I wish we had some hint of that in earlier chapters, or heck since Thomas had so many shifting perspectives, she could have just went back to Livia at some point. Livia, just like Charlotte though has some of the same talent that Charlotte has for deduction, even though she is not as gifted. I would say though that Livia definitely reads people better which is what surprises me about Charlotte later.

Charlotte was written in such a way that many things contradict the character. Since Livia sees her sister as cold and due to her sister’s talent odd, readers may first see the character that way. However, when the book shifts perspectives to Charlotte, we find out she is none of those things. She cares about her sisters, Livia and Bernadine, and is upset that her father broke his promise to her which caused her to seek retribution for that in a really stupid matter. Probably the big reason why I cheered this story though is that Thomas doesn’t sugarcoat how the world is viewing Charlotte know based on her actions. And I for one thought that since Charlotte was so smart, she should have seen the flaws with her plan. Charlotte though great at deductions is also terrible at reading people’s motives or even some people I found. So we get a really flawed Holmes in this one. And instead of addiction to drugs, we get one that is addicted to food which I am going to say, not a real fan of that whole thing at all.

Lord Ingram I found to be an intriguing character, and based on hints throughout the story and then the ending, I can’t wait to see what adventure is coming up for the sequel. I wish that his backstory had been told in a straightforward way, I usually don’t care for books that hint around about people and since the book flow was not great in this one, I think some people may have skipped over things.

I am going to say that the character of Inspector Treadles needs to be cut way down in subsequent stories. Even though this is supposedly a Lady Sherlock book, he took up a good portion of the story (at least 50 percent I would guess). We follow Treadles as he starts his investigations into one mysterious death that looks accidental and tries to tie two other deaths together based on what Sherlock Holmes has sent him in a letter. I do applaud this section of the book though, because it read like a very good Agatha Christie mystery. However, once again, it’s supposed to be a Lady Sherlock book, so having Treadles investigate, go back to Ingram, and then we have a convoluted set-up to information being given to Treadles (which once again makes sense, because the police in this time period would not be listening to anything said by a woman) and then he is off to investigate and interview again. I just felt like I was reading two very different books and nothing really comes together until the end. And the book all of a sudden does show Treadles to be kind of…annoying when he realizes that maybe his wife had other dreams than just being his wife (I know, women with our passions and wishes) and acts as if his whole world changed.

We have other characters in this book that intrigues me, and guess what we do get a Moriarty reference that made me happy. We also get to meet our “John Watson” and I loved that character so much I maybe lost my mind a little bit last night and clapped.

The writing I found to perfectly match the time period in which the story takes place. I found that the characters in the book also reacted as many would in this time and place and I was happy to actually have some nuance showed for how people who were Lords and Ladies were treated very differently than people like the servants depicted in this story.

I am going to flat out say though that the flow for future books needs to be improved. The book had so many shifting perspectives at first that it was a little hard to understand what was going on. We start off with Livia Holmes, we are then introduced to a Lord Ingram who is friends with someone named Sherlock Holmes who has been a prime resource for an Inspector Treadles at Scotland Yard. Then the book focuses on Charlotte Holmes, and then we shift back to Inspector Treadles for a good long while, and then we jump back to Charlotte Holmes. And we also go back to mini-cases that are being investigated by Sherlock Holmes. It just didn’t work at all. Any next books just needs to follow Charlotte and her “John Watson” in future books. Heck throw Livia in there if you must, but let’s keep things to a main plot, with few character asides and it will work.

The setting of the story was perfect and everything definitely makes sense for that time period. I do wish though that we got more information about certain members of the ton. We read references to a good many people that I was able to keep straight, but as I said, there was a lot going on in this first book that I can see why some people decided to just step away from the book.

The ending provided a shocker (at least to me) and I thought the letter aspect confessing all was a little meh though. I found that due to the mystery aspect of things, we find out though Sherlock was right about things, the why was a little harder to get to, and I would think if this was a typical Sherlock Holmes book, he would have found out all in short order. But, I get why in this case why things were hampered by the fact that our Sherlock is a woman who really cannot investigate alongside the police. And i will say that the final reveal may be a bit much for some readers because it refers to some things that may be hard for some to read about.

Based on the last few lines in the book, I have a sneaking suspicion that the next book is going to be taking on the plot of “A Scandal in Bohemia” and I for one, cannot wait for it.

three-half-stars

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1) by Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1) by Kerri ManiscalcoStalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
on September 20th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, YA
Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
two-stars

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story's shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

I really wish that I had liked this book. The premise sounded great, but besides the descriptions of the dissections, this book was all over the place with the main character, Audrey Rose Wadsworth. We find out in the story that she is a biracial young woman living in England in 1888. I had a hard time with believing that society would not have reacted to her being half-Indian. Also the description of what she looked like didn’t really mesh with someone who was half white and half Indian. I only say this because I have two sets of friends in interracial marriages where one of the parties is white and the other is Indian. Their kids do not have creamy/pale skin. So that part of Audrey threw me.  Also author Maniscalco does not go into at all what makes Audrey obsessed with the dead. From what I can gather from the book it seems as if her uncle assists Scotland Yard in cases and he is an earlier form of forensic scientist. Does Audrey want this same type of career? Obviously that type of career is closed to her during this time period, but they quickly gets undone with the ending.  My biggest issue though is that besides having Audrey being a woman investigating the Ripper murders in Whitechapel, there is not enough intrigue left for me to care much. And I say investigating loosely since most of her investigating is going around and not actually talking to anyone besides her uncle, brother, and the love interest (who sucks by the way) in this book Thomas.

The beginning of this book starts off with a bang, we find the main character Audrey dissecting a corpse with her uncle looking on. We don’t know why Audrey is dissecting this corpse and the writing at times will turn you off here, but we quickly find out it is 1888 and that Audrey is doing something that would make most women and men shun her due to Audrey holding interest in something besides clothes and tea. This is also the beginning of dealing with Audrey being insufferable as anything. I should not be rooting for the main character to get her comeuppance as I read, but I thought that Audrey looking down on everyone while she “investigates” was off-putting. There are a couple of well it’s shame that women are out here having to be prostitutes to get by, but I don’t think Audrey even understands that world and the book did not take enough pains to even describe it. Audrey is an outsider looking in throughout the book so as far as I am concerned the main character could have been male since Audrey being female felt like a gimmick to me. The reason why Audrey even gets tangled up in the Ripper killings are convoluted and then every member of her family starts to become involved. At that point I may have rolled my eyes a few times.

I feel really let down though because the character of Audrey could have been a wonderful heroine if done right. I was intrigued by her parents backstory (too bad we don’t get any real details about her mother except here and there) and I wondered how England would react to a I think a half Indian and English woman marrying an Englishman back then. I also wondered how Audrey and her brother were able to go about in society and not have that affecting how people would treat them. We do get a throwaway line here and there about Audrey’s mother trying to teach her and her father about their foods and clothing in Indian, but that her brother refused to have anything to do with it because it was messy. I may have said some rude words to myself about not all Indian food required one eating with your hands. And just wearing saris once in a while is not getting in touch with your heritage.

I also thought that the other characters are very underdeveloped. I never got a great sense of Audrey’s uncle besides him being eccentric (and that was turned up to a level 10 for this book) her father was obsessive, and her brother had a whole devil may care attitude about things, until he didn’t. The character of Thomas was flat and boring and I am actually disappointed that Maniscalo decided that he was a better love interest for her rather than the inspector in the case who honestly seem to like Audrey’s abilities as a forensic scientist. Thomas was rude throughout the book and out of nowhere Audrey has feelings for him which is that old romance trope of a woman deciding that a rude alpha dude equals the best love story ever told. I also hope you like to read a lot about Thomas’s looks because the book is filled with descriptions of his eyes, hair, regal bearing, etc. I kept hoping that Jack the Ripper would have Thomas as one of his victims, no dice there I am afraid.

The writing is honestly what caused me to just lower the book to two stars. The whole book reads like a modern book that is just taking place in 1888. Audrey’s thoughts on women, men, her running around wearing breeches, her apparently leaving home for three weeks to investigate, etc. does not work in a novel taking place in Victorian England. She would have been shunned by every acquaintance, there’s no way she would be allowed to go and view crime scenes with people standing by, etc. It was just too much to overlook while reading that drove me nuts. I really wish there had actually been real consequences for Audrey for forging ahead in the “career” she wanted to undertake. Instead most of the book hand-waved this concerns away.

The writing is also not written in the manner in which people would have talked. I am reading “A Study in Scarlet Women right now, and there are some issues here and there, but the dialogue is band on for the time period.”

Also for some weird reason, in my e-book version the chapter headings would sometimes be cut off abruptly and moved to the next line. I have no idea if that happened in the hardcover version or not, but I thought I throw that out there for people who may read this electronically.

The one thing I will give the book kudos for is incorporating some of the Ripper letters, and photos of things that Audrey was seeing in this book. However, some photos (women having tea) could have been left out.

The flow was up and down the whole book.  We would suddenly skip time periods, scenes, etc. and then Maniscalco would refer to it later on. There was not enough show in this book at all.

The ending was just a setup to the next book in the series and I can honestly say that I will pass on books #2 and #3 unless I read some reviews that show a more interesting story and more realistic view of what Audrey is up to. I did call the killer, but the why behind the murders was just not well thought of at all, and just made no sense from what we knew of other murders.

two-stars

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls by Emma ClineThe Girls by Emma Cline
Published by Random House on June 14th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 355
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

This year I seem to be doing badly with new releases that get a lot of critical acclaim. I found myself bored and restless while reading Emma Cline’s “The Girls.” This was Cline’s take on the Manson murders with details and names changed and re-imagined. I always thought of Charles Manson as a deeply charismatic man who managed to attract a lot of people who were looking for “truth”. However, “The Girls” follows one young girl named Evie Boyd who is more focused on one of the other girls in this book, Suzanne. In the end I didn’t know what lesson I was supposed to be taking away from this story. That men are terrible? That girls are only there to do what they can to attract men? I honestly don’t know. I was sitting around deeply confused while reading.

Image result for veep no idea gif

I thought there were a lot of great lines in this book that definitely gave me a sense of what Cline was trying to say. However, a couple of great lines does not make a great book. I think in the end that the character of Evie was lost and just not that interesting.

The book starts off in the present with Evie living/taking care of a friend’s home. I had so many questions about this because the more you read the book, Evie has almost zero friends. So it’s weird this one random man and her are in touch and he thinks well enough of her to let her stay at his home. When her friend’s son and his girlfriend suddenly arrive, Evie starts reminiscing on her past.

I wish that I had liked Evie. I think at times it was just too hard because she was such a contradiction throughout the book. Past and present Evie really have not learned anything it seems and by the end of the book I just pitied her. She’s going to pass away one day and you have the sense that no one is going to mourn her. Though Evie will probably still be thinking of Suzanne.

Other characters in this book are somewhat developed or not developed at all. For example, Evie’s mother I thought I got a pretty good handle on. I actually felt sorry for a woman who does not quite know what to do in this phase of her life after her husband has left her for another man. Even though she knows it’s wrong, she takes up a relationship with a man who is married and seems determined to find some sort of happiness in her life. In a way Evie is a past version of her mother and I felt like Evie without realizing it was looking at a possible future of her older self. And perhaps Evie’s would have went that way if she had not been so broken after the events that she dealt with in the 1960s.

Though I found Evie’s mother interesting, I wish that more development had been incorporated into characters like Suzanne, Russell, and Evie’s father. Evie’s obsession with Suzanne and her need for her to show how much she loved her was surprising since it is pretty apparent that Suzanne does not care for her. Evie later on in her life trying to pin positive motives to Suzanne just rang false.

The book switches between past and present and honestly it wrecked the flow of the book. Evie soon becomes fixated on the girlfriend of the son of the owner. I just found the whole thing sad. She’s still looking for someone to come along and claim her in a way. I don’t know. The scenes between this threesome and later when a fourth party emerged turned me off. When the book tries to go into depth about a horrible incident that Evie and others hint at I felt a bit let down.

The book ends with a whimper and you don’t get a great feeling of satisfaction about the other characters you have been introduced to in the book.

two-half-stars

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