Review of The Girls by Emma Cline

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The Girls , Emma Cline’s highly-anticipated debut novel, is the story of 14 year old Evie, growing up in 1960’s  California, and how she becomes entangled with a violent cult. Evie is now an adult who has, for the most part, moved on with her life. The story toggles back and forth between the two timelines in a well-paced and seamless manner.

The parallels with the Manson killings of that time are very obvious. I’m a bit obsessed with true crime books and TV (ID is pretty much the only thing I watch). I read Helter Skelter many, many years ago, and was fascinated by the ability of Charles Manson to control the minds and actions of so many people. Let’s face it – he was a super-creepy looking misfit. What were these people thinking??

I was hoping this book would answer that question and really dig deep into what makes people join cults and allow themselves to be brainwashed in such a way. We know that they are often looking for a sense of belonging and acceptance. (Evie’s parents had recently divorced and she had become estranged from her BFF… ) We know they are often young and beginning to use/are using drugs and alcohol. (Evie does.) We know they often feel a lack of control and a resentment toward authority. (Evie is about to be sent to a boarding school against her will.) But there must be something much deeper and darker. Many young adults have similar experiences and don’t seek out murderous cults to be their surrogate family.

While this book was a page-turner, I didn’t gain a clear enough understanding of why Evie joined, and kept going back to, this cult.While I understand that Evie’s attraction to and fascination with Suzanne, the most influential of the girls, was a major factor, I don’t think it was enough. And it didn’t explain how Russell was able to gain such power and influence over the rest of the group. I needed more details. Russell, the leader of the cult, was not as central a character as I’d expected him to be and I was a little disappointed in that. I would have liked to see him more fully developed and to understand more about his relationships within the group.

 

Overall, however, this was a very solid debut novel. I feel that if I didn’t know so much about the Manson Family, I may have actually enjoyed it more. It was unable to stop making constant comparisons between the novel and the real-life story and I think that certainly had an impact on my overall impression of the book.  I would look forward to reading Emma Cline’s next book even though I didn’t end up loving this one as much as I’d hoped.

My rating: 3.25/5 stars

Thanks to Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review of “Before the Fall” by Noah Hawley

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Though I probably shouldn’t have started reading Before the Fall during a super-turbulent flight, I will say that it’s certainly a page-turner.

We know how the story ends (begins). The plane crashes. Nine people are dead. There are two survivors; Scott Burroughs, an artist who was offered a free ride to the city from a woman he’s met on the Vineyard, and her four year old son. Beyond that, we are left with nothing but questions. Many, many questions… What is Scott’s relationship with Maggie, the plane’s owner, and why is he really on the plane? Is Scott really the hero he seems to be? Or is there an explanation for his being one of only two survivors? Was it mechanical failure? Or was the pending indictment of one of the passengers (he was a finance guy, of course) a factor? Was there a lover’s quarrel in the cockpit? Did the bodyguard go rogue?

It must be difficult to develop characters for a book when said characters are almost all dead beyond the first few pages but I think Noah Hawley does a fair job here. There are some interesting dynamics in the bond that has formed between Scott and JJ, the little boy he rescued, and Eleanor, the boy’s aunt and legal guardian. These relationships help to give the book more depth and interest than is sometimes found in a more typical whodunnit.

I loved the way this book kept me guessing until the very end. The crashed could have been caused by any number of things and I vacillated back and forth unendingly in my own theories. I do admit to being a little disappointed, however, when the truth was revealed. I felt that there was a lack of creativity in the way it all wrapped up which surprised me as it was in sharp contrast with the rest of the book. Overall, though, I would say it’s a great read and I would definitely read this author’s next book.

4.25/5 stars

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing, via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Review of “The Singing Bone” by Beth Hahn

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The Singing Bone is the story of a group of teenagers in NY who become involved with Jack Wyck, a narcissistic pyschopath, in 1979. “Mr. Wyck” as he likes to be called, seems to have the ability to control everyone he comes into contact with his Mansonesque methods including fear, intimidation, and violence. It all falls apart one fateful evening as several horrific acts of murder bring about the end of their mind-controlled, drug-filled life with Jack Wyck. The story toggles back and forth between the events leading up to that night in 1979 and 20 years later when filmaker Hans Loomis decides to make a documentary about the case as new DNA evidence that threatens to clear Wyck is produced.

Our main character, Alice, was the smart one in high school prior to becoming acquainted with Mr. Wyck. I found her character, as well as a few of the others, to be one dimensional and somewhat stereotyped. As her character devolved into someone completely out of touch with reality,  I found the story becoming less and less believable. Her miraculous recovery (though she continued to have some convenient amnesia) and seamless transition into a professor of folklore was a package too neatly delivered for me.

There were also parts of the story I would have liked to hear more about. Where did all those clothes in the closet come from? Who did necklace did Alice found belong to? What was Wyck’s connection to all of the other missing teenagers? It would have been interesting if bodies connecting Wyck to those disappearances could have been found. The ending of the book left me generally unsatisfied and I feel that with a few more twists and turns it could have been quite good.

My rating: 2.75 stars

Thanks to Regan Arts via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of “Hidden Bodies” by Caroline Kepnes

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Thanks to Atria/Emily Bestler Books for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Hidden Bodiesby Caroline Kepnes, is the sequal to YouThough I hadn’t read You, I didn’t have any trouble getting pulled into this series about a really nice guy who is down on his luck in the love department  rare book dealer/murderer turned Hollywood writer/murderer. After all, poor Joe is really trying hard to avoid this messy, stressful business. “How things come together in this universe, how they don’t is unfair.”

Our Joe is not an unlikable guy as murderers go. He’s a complicated man full of contradicting qualities. He’s insecure and egotistical. He’s sensitive and cynical. He’s able to love without restraint though he seems to have a hard time sustaining his romantic relationships. They always end, well, you know… badly.

After moving to the west coast to find Amy, the woman who stole his heart and a few expensive books back in New York City, he meets an interesting cast of characters but does not immediately locate Amy. He does, however, meet Love, the daughter of wealthy grocery store owners. Will she be the one to save him from himself? Can he learn to trust again? Can he finally let go of Amy?

This book was a super-fast read. The author’s writing style was a nice change from many of the books I read lately and usually gravitate toward. The ending was one that left me looking forward to the next book in the series but I’m not sure how many books in a series such as this I could read. I could, however, see how this series could develop a very devoted fan base.

My rating: 4 stars

 

 

 

 

Review of “Lost Girls, DI Kim Stone #3)” by Angela Marsons

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Thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Though I hadn’t read the first to novels in this series, I had great hopes for this book based on the description and the positive reviews. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. While the basic plot was intriguing – plotting the parents of two kidnapped girls against each other in order to secure the highest ransom – it lacked any real psychological twist and sense of suspense that could have made it great. The characters were a bit flat and predictable. There was another story about a young man killed trying to escape a gang that also ran throughout the book. Aside from the character of an annoying reporter, I’m not sure that the two stories were relevant enough to benefit from one another. And I thought the ending of the secondary story was very disappointing.

Though this was a very fast read, and I appreciate the chance to read this book, I don’t think this series is one I will return to.

My review: 2 stars