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Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Book Review:  A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. MaasA Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2) by Sarah J. Maas
Also by this author: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)
four-half-stars
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #2
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 624
Also in this series: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:  Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

My Review:

I have to confess I’ve been putting off reading A Court of Mist and Fury, partly because I loved A Court of Thorns and Roses so much that I just didn’t think the second book could possibly live up to the impossibly high expectations I had for it.  I finally broke down and read it this week for the Beat the Backlist challenge I’m participating in and all I can say at this point is WOW and OMG, how long do I have to wait to get my hands on the third book?!

I had actually managed to avoid spoilers for ACOMAF so I had no clue what to expect going in and man, was I shocked! Based on the events of ACOTAR and the direction I was anticipating the series moving in, in my mind, this entire book was a giant plot twist.  And what a glorious plot twist it was! I truly loved pretty much everything about it.

Here are a few of the biggest highlights for me:

 

Rhysand!

Rhysand was actually one of my favorite characters from the first book and I remember lamenting that I wished there had been more of him in that story. Well, I got my wish in A Court of Mist and Fury because Rhysand and the Night Court feature prominently in this book.  As much as I adored him as the handsome but amusing rogue we met in A Court of Thorns and Roses, my love for him grew tenfold as we got to actually learn more about him and the sacrifices that he has made for his people.  He may present himself as a devilish figure, but there’s really just so much more to him than that.  He’s a fierce warrior, a loyal friend, and a compassionate ruler.

Theme of Female Empowerment:

The theme of female empowerment really resonated with me in this book.  As much of an epic romance as Feyre and Tamlin seemed to have in A Court of Thorn and Roses, they are clearly not the same two people they were after everything they went through “under the mountain” at the hands of Amrantha.  After nearly losing her, Tamlin becomes so overprotective of Feyre that their relationship takes a very unhealthy turn and he basically imprisons her in his home, perhaps the worst thing he could have done to someone who is already reeling from having been imprisoned and forced to do things she never thought she would have to do.  As sad as it was to see their relationship fall apart, I liked that Maas had Feyre make a conscious choice to walk away from the unhealthy relationship that is practically suffocating her.  I thought that was a positive message for Maas to send out there to her female readers.

And even though she does end up in another relationship, this time it’s a healthy relationship where she is allowed the freedom she needs and where she is treated as an equal, not as some pretty plaything that needs to be protected and sheltered.  Plus, it wasn’t as though she just rushed from one to the other; it took nearly the entire book for her to embrace the idea of beginning a new relationship.  I found the way the relationship developed to be very realistic and I really loved Feyre that much more once she evolved into an even fiercer version of the Feyre we met in the first book.  She’s a real badass by the end of A Court of Mist and Fury!

Rhysand’s team:

OMG, I love these guys so much!  One of the things that really makes a book work for me is when the author creates a fantastic group of secondary characters and Maas really outdoes herself here. ACOMAF probably has one of the best I’ve read in recent years with Mor, Cassian, Aziel, and Amren.  I loved the dynamic between them.  They could laugh and poke fun at each other in one breath, but when it mattered, they would clearly fight to the death to protect one another.  They are so much more than just the High Lord’s chosen team; they are his family.  Each character was so unique, fascinating, and so well fleshed out that I found myself wishing Maas would give each of them spin-off series of their own.  I’d totally read them if she did!

So Much Action!

I don’t want to give away any details, but this book clearly isn’t just about Feyre recovering from what happened to her in the first book and finding love with a different man than we were expecting her to.  If you like lots of action, epic battle scenes, unexpected betrayals, and lots of plot twists, you’re going to love this book because it’s all here.  The book starts off at a fairly slow and steady pace as we watch Feyre begin her recovery, but once she leaves Tamlin, the pace really picks up and by about the halfway point, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!

Anything I Didn’t Like: 

As I said, I loved pretty much everything about the book. That said, however, I was a little disappointed in the direction that Maas chose to take Tamlin in.  He wasn’t my favorite character by any stretch in the first book, but it bothered me that he was made so unlikeable in this one.   I kept wondering if that was really necessary.

Who Would I Recommend A Court of Mist and Fury to?

I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone who enjoys fantasy that is filled with action, adventure, and complicated relationships.  I’d personally probably only recommend it to older readers of YA fiction just because it does contain some pretty graphic sexual encounters.  It’s a great read though so I’d highly recommend it to anyone else.

 

Rating:  4.5 Stars

four-half-stars

About Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series and A Court of Thorns and Roses series, as well as a USA Today and international bestselling author. Sarah wrote the first incarnation of the Throne of Glass series when she was just sixteen, and it has now sold in thirty-five languages. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog. Empire of Storms, the fifth Throne of Glass novel, released on September 6th, 2016.
She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hamilton College in 2008 with a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Religious Studies.

Book Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Book Review:  Girl in Pieces by Kathleen GlasgowGirl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
five-stars
Published by Delacorte Press on August 30th 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

 

Goodreads Synopsis: 

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever.  Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

My Review of Girl in Pieces:

Girl in Pieces is one of those books that I literally could not put down once I got started. Kathleen Glasgow shows us a raw and unflinching look inside the world of those who self-harm.  Girl in Pieces centers around Charlotte Davis (or Charlie as she is known).  Charlie has been through more in her short seventeen years than most of us go through our entire lives. Both her dad and her best friend have died, she has ended up homeless for a year, been exposed to drugs, alcohol, and witnessed sexual abuse while living in what was basically a sex house, and that merely scratches the surface of all that she has experienced.  Reaching the breaking point and attempting to end her life lands Charlie in a hospital where she finally gets much needed help and begins her road to recovery.  Most of the novel focuses on Charlie’s journey to recovery and all of its ups and downs.

* * * * *

What Did I Love?

  • Charlie:  My love for this book centers directly around Charlie.  I was drawn to Charlie from the moment we meet her in the hospital, where she is so traumatized that she can’t even speak.  I felt an immediate connection with her and was just so heartbroken by the state she was in.  Once she began to speak and talk about what was going on in her mind and then especially when she is released from the hospital and subsequently handed a bus ticket to Arizona by her mom who basically washes her hands of Charlie, I just loved Charlie all the more and wanted her to succeed in her recovery efforts.  I mean how can you not feel sympathetic towards someone who is basically abandoned by their mom when they probably need them the most?

Charlie is an immensely likeable character that I think most everyone will relate to.  Either she’ll remind them of themselves or of someone they know.  Because she’s so familiar and so relatable, her journey is all the more real and all the more shocking because it makes you realize that anyone around you at any time could be going through a similarly rough time, fighting inner demons that you can only begin to imagine.

What I really liked about Charlie was her determination.  She gets off the bus in Arizona and immediately sets out to make her way in the world, taking things one step at a time, one day at a time.  Sometimes it takes everything in her to fight the fear of being alone so that she can function, but she does it. She secures a job at a coffee shop, finds herself a low budget room to rent, and slowly but surely begins to build a life for herself.  Now that’s not to say everything is sunshine and roses for Charlie just because she has a job and a place to life.  There are still plenty of ups and downs, especially once Charlie begins a relationship with a coworker named Riley, who has a drug problem and whose behavior is becoming increasingly erratic the longer Charlie knows him.  Because Riley is so caught up with his own issues, he’s not exactly the ideal support system for Charlie and her dependence on someone who cannot be relied on leads to some occasional dark moments for her.

But as I said, Charlie has a lot of determination to make it through the darkness.  She is not just a girl in pieces, as the title indicates, broken by all that has happened to her. She’s also a girl who is seeking to discover all of the pieces that make her who she is, both the good and the bad, so that she can fit them all together and better understand who she is so that she can make peace with it and move forward.  Charlie is an artist and ultimately it is through her drawings that she finally begins to find her sense of self and to feel more whole.

  • The Book’s Messages:  The book is filled with important messages that really resonated with me as I was following Charlie on her journey.  Like Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places, it’s a book that seeks to remove the stigma that is often associated with mental illness.  If you know someone who self-harms, I think this book will allow you to come away with an idea of what the person is going through — what is driving them to harm themselves — so that you can better understand what they’re up against.

Perhaps its most important messages are for those who self harm.  Girl in Pieces lets those who self-harm know they aren’t alone – that others are going through what they’re going through.  We see it first in the hospital where Charlie encounters many other girls like her and then throughout the book, Charlie meets a few other people she would never have guessed were self-harmers until she sees their scars and realizes that it’s not just her.  Girl in Pieces also conveys the message that there are also people out there who care and who want to try to help.  Even though Charlie’s mother is no help at all, Charlie has many friends, both old and new, who genuinely care about her and want to see her succeed.

Girl in Pieces also shows that the path to recovery is a long and sometimes never-ending journey and that it will have ups and downs.  When Charlie relocates to Arizona, finds herself a job and a place to live, for example, she still brings along the kit that she uses to cut herself with, just in case she needs it.

Even if you’re doing great one moment, something could happen that triggers a relapse.  The message of the book is to realize that setbacks are normal and that they are just that – setback.  They are not failures, and they do not define you and no matter how many setbacks you have, you should never lose hope of someday reaching a point where you no longer feel the need to engage in self-harming behavior or to keep that cutting kit with you – just in case.

  • The Writing.  Not only is this an important book, but it’s a beautifully crafted book as well.  The subject matter is dark, but the writing is gorgeous, almost poetic at times and as painful as Charlie’s journey is at times, the story is still so captivating that you won’t be able to put it down. I also think Glasgow does a wonderful job of handling such a sensitive subject matter with a great deal of respect, and I commend her for that.

* * * * *

Anything I Didn’t Like?

At first, I had Charlie’s relationship with Riley in the “Don’t Like” category.  Riley is a former musician who is very charming and charismatic, but whose life is in just as bad a place as Charlie’s is.  Because of that, their relationship is pretty toxic and I constantly wanted to scream at Charlie to just get away from him.  Ultimately, however, I came to terms with the fact that toxic relationships are quite likely to occur when someone is on the path to recovery.  Looking at it from that perspective, I think Charlie’s experiences with Riley therefore only further add to the authenticity of Glasgow’s story.  While Riley himself may initially be considered somewhat of a negative, he ultimately ends up being a very important part of Charlie’s journey and so I’m going to pull him out of the “Don’t Like” category and let’s just leave it at “It’s complicated.”

 * * * * *

Who Would I Recommend Girl in Pieces to? 

Honestly, I think Girl in Pieces is one of those books that everyone should read.  It’s raw, honest, brave, haunting, and without a doubt, one of the most powerful books I’ve read this year.  I would temper my recommendation just to say that I’m sure some of the topics covered would be considered triggers to those who self-harm, so they’d have to determine for themselves if the book is a good fit for them.

 * * * * *

Rating:  5 Stars

five-stars

About Kathleen Glasgow

Kathleen Glasgow is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel, Girl in Pieces.

She lives in Tucson, Arizona and is a researcher for The Writer’s Almanac. Girl in Pieces has been named to “best of lists by Goop, TeenVogue, BN Teen, Refinery29, EW.com, TeenReads, and more.

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi MeadowsMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Also by this author: My Plain Jane
four-half-stars
Published by HarperTeen on June 7th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 494
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne.  But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about.  Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

* * * * *

My Review:

What an entertaining read this was! If you like humor and storytelling in the vein of The Princess Bride and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, then My Lady Jane is a must-read for you! I was thoroughly amused by this refreshingly hilarious and perhaps slightly irreverent re-inventing of the drama surrounding Henry VIII’s offspring.

And if you’re thinking “Wait, wasn’t Lady Jane Grey only Queen of England for nine days? And wait, wasn’t she then convicted of treason and subsequently beheaded? What could possibly be funny about that?”, let me assure you that you’re not alone.  I had the exact same reaction when I initially heard about this novel. Needless to say, the fact that I was already laughing before I even finished the prologue: “Some names have been changed to protect the innocent (or not-so-innocent, or simply because we thought a name was terrible and we liked another name better)”, I was sold. That’s my kind of humor right there and couldn’t wait to read this tale of how Lady Jane Grey’s life should have gone.

 

What I Loved:

 

  • A Fantastic Main Cast of Characters:

Jane.  I loved so many things about My Lady Jane that it’s hard to decide where to start, so I’m going to start with Jane herself.  These authors have re-imagined young Jane as my ideal protagonist – she’s smart, sassy, and a total book fiend, which endeared her to me right away.  Jane is Books-Over-People all the way, and so the marriage-to-a-complete-stranger situation that she finds herself in at the beginning of the story is all kinds of awkward for her.  And so when she and her new husband prepare to depart on their honeymoon, Jane packs so many books that she runs out of space and so decides, being the practical young lady that she is, that the ideal traveling solution is to build a book wall between herself and her new husband in the carriage. Brilliant!

Gifford.  Now even though I’m laughing at Jane’s treatment of her new husband, Gifford (or ‘G’ as he prefers to be called), let me just say that My Lady Jane is filled with loveable characters and G is most definitely one of them. As you will quickly learn once you begin reading, this retelling of Lady Jane Grey’s history really isn’t history at all – it’s pure fantasy and thus has a fabulous magical thread running through it.  The magic? Some of the characters have the ability to transform into animals at will.  I mention this here because G is one of those characters.  The catch, however, is that G apparently has no control over this gift (or curse as he calls it) and for most of his life, he has transformed into a stallion with the sunrise and only returns to human form once the sun goes down.

Needless to say, Jane was not made aware of this prior to their marriage, thus making for some awkward (and oh yes, truly hilarious!) moments in their first few days together.  There are several battles of wits early on where Jane and G reminded me of Benedict and Beatrice from William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  As funny as their initial encounters are, I really loved watching Jane and G’s relationship blossom as they get to know each other better and realize how much they have in common.  Even though G is actually related to some who are conspiring to steal the throne, his heart and his loyalty clearly lie with Jane.

Edward.  Edward is the King of England at the beginning of the book. He is such a  likeable character, especially when it comes to his relationship with his cousin Lady Jane Grey, that when we learn there is a conspiracy to remove him from the throne, we can’t help but cheer for him as the underdog because nice guys should always finish first!

  • Supporting Characters

The supporting players in My Lady Jane are just as awesome as the main characters.  Some of my favorites were Gracie and Pet, who play a large part in helping Edward in the battle for England’s throne.  Gracie is a young Scottish thief who becomes a potential love interest for King Edward. She’s smart, feisty, incredibly resourceful, and she’s always up for a good adventure.

Then there’s Pet, short for Petunia.  Pet is a loyal friend to Edward, fiercely protective, and at the same time, a bit of a free spirit. In that way, she reminds me a lot of Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series.

  • The Humor!  

I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while reading a book.  It’s equal parts silly, witty, and just downright absurd at times, and I loved every minute of it!  As I mentioned earlier, if you like humorous stories like Monty Python and The Princess Bride, you can’t go wrong with this book.

One of the scenes that amused me the most (and made me fall in love with both Jane and G) was when Jane and G were laying out the ground rules for their marriage. Because a girl must keep her priorities straight, Jane’s rules are of course all about protecting her books:  ” Number one:  no touching my books…Number two:  no chewing on my books…Number three:  I will never find hay in my books.”  G counters with his own set of rules for a happy marriage:  “There will be no riding of the horse…There will be no bridling the horse…Number three: there will be no saddling of the horse” and there are to be “No horse jokes.”

These “ground rules” immediately lead to this hilarious bit:

“No horse jokes,” he said.

“My lord, I apologize for the horse joke.  If you put down the book — unharmed! — I will give you a carrot.”

He brandished the book at her. “Was that a horse joke?”

“Neigh.”

Seriously, tell me you aren’t giggling right now…

* * * * *

Anything I didn’t care for?

 

My only quibble with My Lady Jane was that I thought there were too many narrator interruptions in the closing chapters.  At first the interruptions were very amusing because, again, they reminded me so much of The Princess Bride, but the closer I got to the resolution of the story, the more frequently the narrators butted in and stopped the action. I REALLY wanted to find out how the story was going to end, so having the ending prolonged by so many narrator interruptions was a bit torturous for me.  That said, I still loved the overall story though. It was just so much fun!!!

* * * * *

Who would I recommend My Lady Jane to?

 

Well, again, I think this book’s appeal lies squarely in its humor. That humor is the key to making this such a refreshing and unique read.  I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who can appreciate that humor.

If you’re a history buff and would consider a fantasy retelling of Lady Jane Grey’s life in poor taste, then I’d probably tell you to steer clear.

* * * * *

Rating:  4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

About Brodi Ashton

From Brodi Ashton Writer (In Ms. Ashton’s own words):

Because of two parents who were Greek myth geeks, I grew up thinking the latest fashion trends were inspired by Aphrodite, and a good conversational opener was, “So, which mythological character do you most resemble?” Despite these social shortcomings, I found a great husband who’s always my first reader. We live in Utah with our two young boys, who still have no idea why I’m at the computer all the time.

I received a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Utah and a Master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

 

About Cynthia Hand

Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of the Unearthly series with HarperTeen: UNEARTHLY, HALLOWED, RADIANT (an enovella) and BOUNDLESS, and the NYT bestselling contemporary, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE. She lives with her family in Idaho, where she teaches courses in creative writing at Boise State University. Her latest book, MY LADY JANE, (cowritten with Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows) was released on June 7, 2016.

About Jodi Meadows

Jodi Meadows wants to be a ferret when she grows up and she has no self-control when it comes to yarn, ink, or outer space. Still, she manages to write books. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy, the ORPHAN QUEEN Duology, and the FALLEN ISLES Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen), and a coauthor of MY LADY JANE (HarperTeen). Visit her at www.jodimeadows.com.

My Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

My Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
three-stars
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on July 31st 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 327
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
* * * * *

Goodreads Synopsis:   Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage.  The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

My Review: 

I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child a few weeks ago and it has taken me this long to decide how I feel about what I read.  Conflicted is probably the best way to describe my reaction.  There were definitely a few elements that I loved, but at the same time, there were a number of things that were rather disappointing.

As with all play scripts, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is clearly meant to be watched rather than just read.  The written text and descriptions are sparse and somewhat bland because they are waiting for the director and the actors to work their magic and breathe life into it.  I actually wish I could see the play because I’m sure it’s wildly entertaining and my review of that would be glowing; however, since I only have the written text to go on, here are my relatively spoiler-free thoughts on the story.

I thought it was very exciting to see a whole new generation of witches and wizards heading off to Hogwarts.  It was especially interesting to follow Harry’s son Albus and see how he fared as he tried to live up to his father’s tremendous legacy.

As much I liked Albus, though, and I NEVER thought I would ever say this, but the character who really stole my heart in this story was Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius.  I can’t really go into details without giving away too much of the play, but the friendship that he forges with Albus Potter when they meet on the way to Hogwarts was just so wonderful to see, probably, in part, because it’s just so completely unexpected to anyone who has read the original books and is familiar with all of the bad blood between Harry and Draco.

* * * * *

That said, one of my biggest disappointments of the story is how little time was actually spent at Hogwarts. Perhaps the timing/pacing works better on stage than it does on paper, but the play breezed through entire years at Hogwarts in the span of just a couple of scenes.  This bothered me because, for me, it meant that the most enjoyable parts of the Harry Potter series were stripped away.  When I read the books, I always loved all of the normal day-to-day happenings — Harry and his friends going to class, playing Quidditch, their interactions with Hagrid, McGonagal, Snape, the ghosts that roamed the halls, etc.  Pardon the pun, but for me, that’s the magic of the Harry Potter series and what makes it so special.   To be mostly finished with Hogwarts less than a third of the way through the story left me feeling out of sorts.

Speaking of feeling out of sorts, while I felt very nostalgic about revisiting Harry and the gang all grown up, I have to say the experience wasn’t what I hoped it would be.  I don’t know if it was because I was reading a script rather than a novel, but Harry, Ron, and the others just didn’t seem quite like the characters I had grown to love over the years. They just seemed stiff and stilted and several of their personalities, Ginny’s in particular, just seemed off. I know they’re adults now rather than children, and that people grow and change, but it still just seemed a bit off.  In considering the way they came across, I can understand why some have said it reminds them of fanfiction.  And this is probably a bit shallow on my part, but I was also a little disappointed in the career paths most of them were on. I guess I was expecting bigger and better things for them after having defeated Voldemort all those years ago, but as I read what each of them were up to, I just kept thinking to myself: “Really? That’s it?” Ron, in particular, was a disappointment, as he is just working in the Weasley’s joke shop.

With the exception of enjoying watching Albus and Scorpius becoming friends, I was disappointed enough early on that I actually considered giving up on the story around the halfway point. I’m glad I chose to push on though because I really did enjoy the second half much more than I did the first.  It finally started to feel more like a Harry Potter story as the action really picked up and as events from the actual series, such as the Triwizard Tournament from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, were revisited and incorporated into the play’s narrative.  It took me about 4 days to read the first half of the play, but I flew through the second half in just a few hours.

* * * * *

Overall, I’d have to say that I liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child but I had some issues with it.  I would still recommend it to any fan of the original series though because I do think it’s an interesting take on where they might be as adults.  I also think if you keep in mind that it’s a script rather than a lengthy and descriptive novel like we’re used to reading and adjust your expectations accordingly, then you’ll have a more pleasant reading experience and can just bask in the nostalgia of seeing your favorite characters in a new way.

 

Rating:  Tough to rate, but I’m going to say 3 stars (1-2 stars for the beginning, closer to 5 stars for the second half).

 

 

three-stars

About J.K. Rowling

From Goodreads:  Although she writes under the pen name J.K. Rowling, pronounced like rolling, her name when her first Harry Potter book was published was simply Joanne Rowling. Anticipating that the target audience of young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman, her publishers demanded that she use two initials, rather than her full name. As she had no middle name, she chose K as the second initial of her pen name, from her paternal grandmother Kathleen Ada Bulgen Rowling. She calls herself Jo and has said, “No one ever called me ‘Joanne’ when I was young, unless they were angry.” Following her marriage, she has sometimes used the name Joanne Murray when conducting personal business. During the Leveson Inquiry she gave evidence under the name of Joanne Kathleen Rowling. In a 2012 interview, Rowling noted that she no longer cared that people pronounced her name incorrectly.

Rowling was born to Peter James Rowling, a Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer, and Anne Rowling (née Volant), on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Bristol. Her mother Anne was half-French and half-Scottish. Her parents first met on a train departing from King’s Cross Station bound for Arbroath in 1964. They married on 14 March 1965. Her mother’s maternal grandfather, Dugald Campbell, was born in Lamlash on the Isle of Arran. Her mother’s paternal grandfather, Louis Volant, was awarded the Croix de Guerre for exceptional bravery in defending the village of Courcelles-le-Comte during the First World War.

Rowling’s sister Dianne was born at their home when Rowling was 23 months old. The family moved to the nearby village Winterbourne when Rowling was four. She attended St Michael’s Primary School, a school founded by abolitionist William Wilberforce and education reformer Hannah More. Her headmaster at St Michael’s, Alfred Dunn, has been suggested as the inspiration for the Harry Potter headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories, which she would usually then read to her sister. She recalls that: “I can still remember me telling her a story in which she fell down a rabbit hole and was fed strawberries by the rabbit family inside it. Certainly the first story I ever wrote down (when I was five or six) was about a rabbit called Rabbit. He got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee called Miss Bee.” At the age of nine, Rowling moved to Church Cottage in the Gloucestershire village of Tutshill, close to Chepstow, Wales. When she was a young teenager, her great aunt, who Rowling said “taught classics and approved of a thirst for knowledge, even of a questionable kind,” gave her a very old copy of Jessica Mitford’s autobiography,Hons and Rebels. Mitford became Rowling’s heroine, and Rowling subsequently read all of her books.

Rowling has said of her teenage years, in an interview with The New Yorker, “I wasn’t particularly happy. I think it’s a dreadful time of life.” She had a difficult homelife; her mother was ill and she had a difficult relationship with her father (she is no longer on speaking terms with him). She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother had worked as a technician in the science department. Rowling said of her adolescence, “Hermione [a bookish, know-it-all Harry Potter character] is loosely based on me. She’s a caricature of me when I was eleven, which I’m not particularly proud of.” Steve Eddy, who taught Rowling English when she first arrived, remembers her as “not exceptional” but “one of a group of girls who were bright, and quite good at English.” Sean Harris, her best friend in the Upper Sixth owned a turquoise Ford Anglia, which she says inspired the one in her books.

About Jack Thorne

Jack Thorne (born 6 December 1978) is an English screenwriter and playwright.

Born in Bristol, England, he has written for radio, theatre and film, most notably on the TV shows Skins, Cast-offs, This Is England ’86, This Is England ’88, This Is England ’90, The Fades, The Last Panthers and the feature film The Scouting Book for Boys. He currently lives in London.

About John Tiffany

John Tiffany trained at Glasgow University gaining an MA in Theatre and Classics. He was Literary Director for the Traverse Theatre, Associate Director for Paines Plough and a founding Associate Director for the National Theatre of Scotland. He is currently an Associate Director for the Royal Court Theatre. During 2010-11 John was a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University.

Work for the Royal Court includes: THE TWITS, HOPE, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and THE PASS.
Work for the National Theatre of Scotland includes: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, MACBETH, ENQUIRER, PETER PAN, THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA, TRANSFORM CAITHNESS: HUNTER, BE NEAR ME, NOBODY WILL EVER FORGIVE US, THE BACCHAE, BLACK WATCH, ELIZABETH GORDON QUINN and HOME: GLASGOW. For BLACK WATCH, John won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director and a Critics’ Circle Award.

On Broadway, John directed THE GLASS MENAGERIE (also A.R.T.), MACBETH, and ONCE, which won 8 Tony Awards in 2012, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical.

Other work includes: THE AMBASSADOR (Brooklyn Academy of Music), JERUSALEM (West Yorkshire Playhouse), LAS CHICAS DEL TRES Y MEDIA FLOPPIES (Granero Theatre, Mexico City and Edinburgh Festival Fringe), IF DESTROYED TRUE, MERCURY FUR, HELMET and THE STRAITS (Paines Plough), GAGARIN WAY, ABANDONMENT, AMONG UNBROKEN HEARTS, PERFECT DAYS and PASSING PLACES (Traverse, Edinburgh).

John is also working on the stage play of HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD with J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne, which opened in the West End in June 2016.

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on “The Mothers” by Brit Bennett

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is The Mothers by Brit Bennett.  Why am I so excited for this novel?  Well, as if the blurb below isn’t enticing enough on its own, I was lucky enough to read an excerpt of The Mothers in Buzz Books 2016: Fall/Winter catalog.  As I was reading, I was just instantly struck by how beautiful, powerful, and honest Bennett’s writing is.  As soon as I finished the excerpt, I immediately wanted more.  I’m glad I don’t have too much longer to wait because I think The Mothers is going to end up being one of my favorite reads of 2016.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

mothers th

Publication Date: October 11, 2016

From Amazon:

A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community – and the things that ultimately haunt us most.

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

* * * * *

Check out this advanced praise for The Mothers!

One of Buzzfeed’s “21 New Books You Need to Read this Fall”

One of The Millions‘ “Most Anticipated” for the second half of 2016

“Brit Bennett is a brilliant and much-needed new voice in literature.” -Angela Flournoy, author of National Book Award-finalist The Turner House

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Waiting on Wednesday: The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is The Animators: A Novel by Kayla Rae Whitaker.  What actually first drew me to this book was the quote below from Emma Donoghue.  I really love Emma Donoghue’s books and so when she says that she wishes she had written this book, it immediately went on to my book wishlist.  I also love books about art and the creative process so I think this one would be right up my alley.

The Animators:  A Novel by Kayla Rae Whitaker

animators th

Publication Date: November 29, 2016

From Amazon:

“An engrossing, exuberant ride through all the territories of love—familial, romantic, sexual, love of friends, and, perhaps above all, white-hot passion for the art you were born to make . . . I wish I’d written The Animators.”—Emma Donoghue, author of Room and The Wonder.

She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever.
 
At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon Kisses, quietly ambitious but self-doubting, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel Vaught, brash, unapologetic, wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over underground comics and dysfunctional families. Working, absorbing, drinking. Drawing: Mel, to understand her own tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.

A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel’s childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. But while on tour to promote the film, cracks in their relationship start to form: Sharon begins to feel like a tag-along and suspects that raucous Mel is the real artist. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.

Check out all of this advanced praise for The Animators!

“[An] outstanding debut . . . Whitaker skillfully charts the creative process, its lulls and sudden rushes of perfect inspiration. And in the relationship between Mel and Sharon, she has created something wonderful and exceptional: a rich, deep, and emotionally true connection that will certainly steal the hearts of readers.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A compulsively readable portrait of women as incandescent artists and intimate collaborators.”Elle

The Animators is a heartbreakingly beautiful, sharply funny, arrestingly unforgettable novel about love and genius, the powerful obsessiveness of artistic creation, and the equally powerful undertow of the past. Kayla Rae Whitaker writes like her head is on fire.”—Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner Award–winning author of The Great Man

“Every artist must come from somewhere; this is something you try to outrun, even as home fuels the creative engine. The Animators is a novel about a pair of cartoonists, but it’s also about the complexity of creative friendship, about balance and jealousy, growing into yourself and living with your talent and trying to actually, impossibly get along in this cracked and unjust world. The result is unapologetic and raucous and compulsively readable; it is potato-chip-friendly and deeply, generously wise.” —Charles Bock, author of Alice & Oliver

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Book Review – Modern Lovers

Book Review – Modern LoversModern Lovers by Emma Straub
three-stars
Published by Riverhead Books on May 31st 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit
Pages: 353
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the New York Times‒bestselling author of The Vacationers, a smart, highly entertaining novel about a tight-knit group of friends from college—their own kids now going to college—and what it means to finally grow up well after adulthood has set in.

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults’ lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.

Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.

My review:

I really wanted to love Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers for a number of reasons. First of all, the title Modern Lovers hints that this will be a sexy and entertaining read. Second, it has been on pretty much every 2016 Must-Read book list that I’ve come across. And third, just look at that bright, fun cover – all by itself, it’s practically guaranteeing a light, fun read.

Sadly, as ready as I was to fall in love with Modern Lovers, it ended up just being an average read for me. I liked it enough to finish it, but overall I found it to be somewhat underwhelming, especially when compared with all of the hype surrounding the book. Maybe all that hype had built up unrealistically high expectations in my mind, but I was fully expecting this to be one of my favorite reads of 2016 and it didn’t come close.

Let me start off by mentioning a few things that I did like though because the book definitely has aspects that I enjoyed.

1. I love that it was set in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn. New York City is my favorite place in the whole world, but I get so distracted by all that Manhattan has to offer that I have yet to make it across the Brooklyn Bridge to visit Brooklyn. Modern Lovers makes me want to hop on the train and head up there right now and do just that.

2. Short, easy to read chapters. Even as I struggled with whether or not I actually liked the book, the chapters were so easy to breeze through that my “Okay, I’ll give it one more chapter to see if I change my mind” quickly turned into “Oh wait, I’m already at the end!”

Okay, so on to what I had issues with…

I tend to enjoy books where I can connect with the characters in some way. I consider myself to be the target audience for this book as I am in the same age range as Elizabeth, Zoe, Andrew, and Jill, and I thought that I would totally be able to relate to their post-college lives and their ever-evolving friendships with one another. Although I did enjoy how Straub drew each character as flawed and therefore completely realistic, I just unfortunately found them all to be, for the most part, unlikeable and because I didn’t like most of them, it was hard to care about or connect with anything they were going through. For me, there was nothing sexy or fun about these “Modern Lovers.” Elizabeth, a real estate agent, seemed like she could only really relate to the lives of her friends and neighbors in terms of what kind of real estate deals she could make if they were to break up and need to sell their home and buy new ones. Zoe, while more likeable and more relatable than Elizabeth, was incredibly frustrating at times because of the unnecessary drama that she seemed to be creating for herself and Jill. Andrew, by far, was my least favorite character in the book. He was a walking hippie-wannabe mid-life crisis and I just wanted to scream at him to go get a job. The only adult character I even remotely cared for was Jill, who I did sympathize with because as the only one of the group who didn’t go to Oberlin College, she is on the outside looking in a lot of times and it can be awkward for her. It makes her more vulnerable and more interesting than the other three characters.

About the only thing I found interesting about this group of adults was the drama regarding their old college band. One of their former members, Lydia, went on to become a famous singer but ultimately died at the age of 27, thus joining the infamous ’27 Club’ of other famous musicians who tragically died at the same age (Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, to name a couple). Someone wants to make a movie about Lydia and her life, so there’s a lot of drama surrounding the face that Andrew, Zoe, and Elizabeth have to give permission to use their music and for there to be characters modelled after their lives as members of the band. I actually found this part of the story so interesting and Andrew, Zoe, and Elizabeth so much more interesting as these rock-n-rolling college students that I found myself wishing that there was a book about them instead of these humdrum middle-aged versions of themselves.

Okay, so I clearly didn’t care for the adults in Modern Lovers. That said, however, I will add that I very much enjoyed seeing their children interact. Ruby, who is Jill and Zoe’s daughter, and Harry, son of Elizabeth and Andrew, have a budding maybe/maybe not romance that begins when they end up in an SAT prep course together. Harry is a sweet kid, naïve for his age, and in that sense, may perhaps be the most likeable character in the entire novel. Ruby is much more experienced and takes it upon herself to educate Harry in the area of romance. While her motives and how much she truly likes Harry might be unclear, their flirtation and budding relationship does stand in refreshing contrast to the mundane middle-aged drama of their parents. Seeing what was going to happen between Ruby and Harry was probably what kept me reading until the end. For me, this probably would have been a stronger read if the narrative point of view had just been through the eyes of Ruby and Harry, maybe with the parents just on the periphery. Having the story filtered through 6 points of view was a little much for me.

While this was ultimately a disappointing read for me because it didn’t live up to all of the hype, I would still recommend Modern Lovers to anyone who is looking for an easy read, perhaps for their vacation. I clearly did not connect with these characters and their lives, but perhaps you will.

Rating: 3 stars

three-stars

About Emma Straub

Emma Straub is from New York City. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Modern Lovers, The Vacationers and Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, and the short story collection Other People We Married. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Vogue, New York Magazine, Tin House, The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, and the The Paris Review Daily. She is a contributing writer to Rookie. Straub lives with her husband and two sons in Brooklyn. A more illustrated version of this appears at M+E.

Waiting on Wednesday – Heartless by Marissa Meyer

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week:

Heartless by Marissa

heartless

Publication Date: November 8, 2016

From Amazon:

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland―the infamous Queen of Hearts―she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite childhood stories, so I’m excited for Heartless because I love the idea of getting a possible backstory on the infamous Queen of Hearts.

I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday. Is anyone else excited for Heartless?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books on My Summer TBR List

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week is “FREEBIE WEEK — topic of your choice or go back and do one you missed!” This is my first week participating so I’m choosing to go back and do an earlier top 10 list, so without further ado, here’s my first Top Ten Tuesday!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books on My Summer TBR List


A Darker Shade final for Irene 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10
1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab – Nearly everyone I follow has given this one rave reviews, plus I’m kind of intrigued by the idea of London parallel universe style, so I’m super excited to give it a read this summer.

2. Red Rising by Pierce Brown – Back when I read Red Queen, I remember a lot of reviews saying that it was similar to Red Rising but that Red Rising was the superior series. I’ve decided I want to see for myself which is better.

3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas -Again, major rave reviews for this series and the blurb on Goodreads sold me as soon as it mentioned Beauty and the Beast!

4. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante – After starting out with so many fantasy novels, I like to switch gears and read something a little different. I chose this one because I love novels that focus on the bonds of friendship and also because it’s set in Italy and I went there last year and fell in love with the country.

5. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub – This one appeals to me because of all of the positive buzz it has gotten and also when I read the blurb on Goodreads, it sounded like a book I would be able to relate to: “Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.”

6. A Storm of Swords, Game of Thrones # 3, by George R. R. Martin – As much as I enjoy the Game of Thrones series, I can only tackle one of these behemoths a year and it’s that time again…

7. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – The cover of this novel is what initially drew me in – the look of pain on that man’s face. The synopsis sounds pretty compelling as well: “When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.”

8. Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman – The reviews I’ve read on this book have been somewhat mixed, but I’m still intrigued and want to give it a shot. From Goodreads: “Girls on Fire tells the story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost.”

9. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa – This book was on a lot of the Must Read lists at the beginning of the year. Although it isn’t my usual reading fare, it sounded very interesting so I entered a Goodreads giveaway and won a copy. I’m excited to give it a try and see if it lives up to the hype. From Goodreads: “The Flamethrowers meets Let the Great World Spin in this debut novel set amid the heated conflict of Seattle’s 1999 WTO protests.”

10. Fire Falling, Air Awakens # 2, by Elise Kova – I just started the Air Awakens series this week and am already so in love with it that the second book in the series bumped another TBR book from my top 10 list.

Book Review: The Girls

Book Review:  The GirlsThe Girls by Emma Cline
five-stars
Published by Random House on June 14th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis: Girls—their vulnerability, strength, and passion to belong—are at the heart of this stunning first novel for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad 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.   Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.

My review:

Set in California during the late 1960s, Emma Cline’s debut novel The Girls tells the story of fourteen year old Evie Boyd, an average, ordinary teenager who has become disenchanted with her life. Her parents are recently divorced – her dad has moved on and is now living with a new girlfriend, while her mom is desperately searching for love again and is constantly bringing men home. The revolving door of men starts to create friction between Evie and her mom, and so Evie starts spending less and less time at home. In addition to her troubles at home, Evie also has a falling out with her longtime best friend, Connie, and is left feeling very much lost and on her own.

Lonely and desperately wanting to connect with someone, Evie meets and is immediately infatuated with an ultra cool and attractive older girl named Suzanne. Suzanne tells Evie all about how she and a group of others live on a ranch together outside of town and about a man named Russell, who loves and takes care of them all. Seduced both by Suzanne and by the idea of this wonderful ‘hippie-esque’ family Suzanne describes to her, Evie jumps at the opportunity to hang out at the ranch and meet Russell.

This begins a journey that takes Evie down a dark and potentially dangerous path because that happy, hippie family is actually a cult and Russell is its Charles Manson. Yes, Russell takes care of his girls, but he also frequently has them do his bidding. The acts committed are fairly harmless at first: the girls dumpster dive for food because they don’t have enough money to feed themselves and they also occasionally break into homes. Once she is part of the group, Evie is persuaded to start stealing cash from her mom whenever the opportunity arises and bring it to Russell. But then as with Manson, that bidding eventually takes a violent and deadly turn. Russell is a singer-songwriter wannabe and has been angling for a record deal with this guy named Mitch. When the record deal never materializes, Russell is furious and sends his girls over to Mitch’s house to send him a message that neither he nor anyone else in their community will ever forget.

What I loved about The Girls:

One of the things that fascinated me most about this novel is that even though it contains a mass murdering Manson-like cult, Cline crafts her story in such a way that the murders committed are really just a footnote. The primary focus of the novel is, as the title suggests, the girls.

Cline deftly uses two narrative perspectives to tell Evie’s story. The first, and main one, is fourteen year old Evie describing how she meets Suzanne and gets seduced into joining Russell’s group. This allows us to see the events as they unfold, to watch Evie’s obsession with Suzanne grow and see the lengths she will go to in order to please Suzanne, and, most importantly, it allows us to understand Evie’s motivations as these events are taking place. In her portrayal of young Evie, Cline perfectly captures all of the nuances of being a teenage girl – the volatile emotions, the vulnerability, the intense need to belong to a group and just fit in. Cline is so spot on with her writing that I felt like I could have been reading the diary of a fourteen year old. Heck, it could have been my own diary when I was a teenager (minus the murderous cult, of course!).

The second perspective Cline uses to tell the story is much more reflective and really helps to round out Evie’s story. Evie is still the narrator, but now she is much older and is looking back on herself when she was fourteen and thinking about what happened, what could have happened, why everything happened, etc. Again, Cline perfectly captures the inner workings of older Evie’s mind down to the almost giddiness that she still seems to feel at being associated, however loosely, with the now infamous cult. Even as an adult, Evie still feels their hold over her, Suzanne’s in particular.
Read more

five-stars

About Emma Cline

Emma Cline is from California. Her fiction has appeared in Tin House and The Paris Review, and she was the recipient of the 2014 Paris Review Plimpton Prize.