Quickie Review of The Girls

Author: Emma Cline

Published: June 14, 2016 by Random House

Length: 368 pages

Genre: Fiction, Thriller

Source: Library eBook

My rating: 4 1/2 stars

From GoodReads:

The GirlsNorthern 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.

There seems to be a theme in my reading choices in the last couple of months. For whatever reason cults and women’s experiences in cults are really interesting to me right now. The last book I reviewed, Troublemaker, is the true life story of Leah Remini and Scientology. This novel is a fictionalized story of a Manson style cult in the late ’60’s. The story is framed by the adult Evie remembering the events of that summer while staying at a friends isolated cabin in Northern California. She is joined by the friend’s son and his girlfriend which causes her to remember the events of that summer when as a fourteen year old girl she joined the cult.

This novel is intriguing, interesting, and disturbing. I felt a sense of menace and unease as I read the book. So if you are looking for a comforting read, The Girls is not it. So many books that feature women lately have featured women who are unlikable and do awful things. This novel fits into that Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train vibe. But it’s not a mystery or a thriller that needs to be solved. Anyone who is familiar with the Manson cult activities will know what happens in the story. What is different and interesting for me is the relationship between the girls in the cult. How they interact. Why they stay. Russell, the thinly veiled Manson figure, is less important in this story. Evie and Suzanne complicated connection is much more interesting. What is Evie looking for from Suzanne?

“I waited to be told what was good about me. I wondered later if this was why there were so many more women than men at the ranch. All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles had taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you–the boys had spent time becoming themselves.”

And Evie is seen by Suzanne. I like how this story explores how girls do interact and acknowledge each other. It reminds me of how difficult it is to be a girl in this world. The cult, and more specifically, Suzanne give Evie what she needs as a young girl. And this made me so uncomfortable as a reader because I knew what was coming. And Suzanne’s menace is frightening too. It’s not often that women in a novel are just as menacing as the men. And rather than being fascinated by the bad boy or even Russell, Evie is drawn to the bad girl. The toxic stew of girl crushes, menace, and desire for acknowledgement makes this a fascinating read for me.

But the scenes that take place in the current day are less pleasing. I don’t enjoy reading about the teen characters that show up and prompt Evie’s remembrances. I don’t really like how Evie relates and behaves with those teens. And the ending is frustrating.

Would I recommend it? Yes. If you are interested in female characters behaving badly, cults, and girls struggling  with coming of age then you will probably enjoy this book. I think it will end up in my top ten books of the year.

One more of my favorite lines from the book:

“I knew just being a girl in the world handicapped your ability to believe yourself.”

Have you read The Girls? What did you think of it? Are you planning to read it? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Quickie Review of Troublemaker: Surviving Scientology and Hollywood

Authors: Leah Remini and Rebecca Paley

Published: November 2015 by Ballantine Books

Length: 278 pages

Genre: Memoir

Source: Library eBook

My rating: 3 stars

From Goodreads:

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and ScientologyLeah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost.

That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.

The reason I read this book is because I watched her series about Scientology on A&E. I’m not a fan of her work on TV. I’ve never watched an episode of The King of Queens. But I am watching her reality show about what its like to leave Scientology, Leah Remini Sceintology and the Aftermath. And it will be hard to separate my thoughts and feelings about the series from this memoir. But I will try. Leah Remini and her story are intriguing. She seems to be a person who takes no guff from anyone, and that’s why its so interesting that she joined (actually grew up in) The Church of Scientology. The control that Scientology seems to exert on it’s members is appalling.

In the book Leah tells stories of how she rebelled against that pressure and stories about how she also supported their ideas from the time she was a little girl. And that rebellion against and then adherence to the religion becomes confusing and seems to hint at things that happened to her that she isn’t comfortable revealing when she was writing this memoir. I think after telling some of the horrific stories of abuse on her TV show she will eventually reveal more about her unpleasant experiences in Scientology.

She does confront in the book the privilege she had as a celebrity, but also how much time, energy, and the large amount of money she gave to Scientology over the years. She is invited to be a part of Tom Cruise’s inner circle and is invited to his wedding to Katie Holmes. She also is friends with many of the higher ups in Scientology, too. And she donates a large a mount of money to Scientology in addition to buying required courses and traveling to Florida during her work breaks to take courses there as well. And all of the courses and stays in Florida are not free. Scientology expects members to pay for all of these courses.

I could go on recounting everything that happens in the book, but then why would you read it? And I think if you are interested in cults you should read it. It’s not a perfect book, and there are a few things that stand out to me.  Leah writes about how she became an actress, but truthfully that’s not nearly as interesting as her experiences in Scientology. And the the gaps in the stories she doesn’t tell about her experiences in Scientology are obvious, especially after watching the series. Also, the book seems rather chatty in tone, which can be both charming and annoying as you read the book. I think the co-writer, Rebecca Paley, had a time wrangling all of the material into a coherent narrative. Which she does, by the way.

So, if you are looking for information detailing the Scientology and how it works, this book is not the book to read. This book is more focused on Leah Remini’s first months of confronting the cult she has recently left at the time. If you are looking for information, read Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear. But if you are interested in Leah Remini’s experiences in Scientology and how she became a part of it, then this is the book for you.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it and would you/did you watch the TV series? If you haven’t read the memoir or watched the series, would you?  Let me know in the comments below.

January 2017 Wrap-Up

Books Read in January:

Library Books:

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology The Dangerous Viscount (The Burgundy Club, #2) The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton (The Burgundy Club, #3) Something About Emmaline (Bachelor Chronicles, #1) This Rake of Mine Confessions of a Little Black Gown Stealing the Bride Tempted By the Night His Mistress by Morning

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini [eBook]

The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville [eBook]

The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville [eBook]

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean  [eBook]

Something About Emmeline by Elizabeth Boyle [eBook]

This Rake of Mine by Elizabeth Boyle [eBook]

Confessions of a Little Black Gown by Elizabeth Boyle [eBook]

Stealing the Bride by Elizabeth Boyle [eBook]

Tempted by the Night by Elizabeth Boyle [eBook]

His Mistress by Morning by Elizabeth Boyle [eBook]

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks and Read Harder Challenge:

S.

S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

Started in January:

 

 

Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernst Cline

 

 

 

Across the Blogisphere:

#PostingReviews on Inside My Minds.  I hadn’t thought about doing posting my book reviews on retail sites like Amazon–the online retail site that I use most frequently. I immediately went to Amazon and posted my last three book reviews to the site.  Such a good idea. Thank you,  Ashley @ InsideMyMinds

Reflections an Open Apology to Dolly Parton is  an interesting exploration of this bloggers feelings about Dolly Parton. I think Dolly has been dismissed by many people over the years, and this is a nice examination of the writer’s reversal of opinion.

I have an Instagram account, but I really don’t know how to use it. This article, Extend Your Blog’s Reach With Instagram, really helped me see how to use my account.

Across the Web:

A fascinating essay about fruitcake. How-and- Why Did Fruitcake Become a Slur.

At the end of the Obama presidency many essay and articles came out about it. Here is my favorite: Empathy and Escapism-Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books.

How was your reading life in January? Tell me in the comments, and be sure to leave a link to your January Wrap-Up, too. I love to see what everyone else is reading.

December Wrap-Up

Reading in December was fine. Blogging about my reading was much more difficult. We all were sick from about the 15th of December until just before Christmas, so blogging went onto the back burner. Luckily I wasn’t too sick to read. And really, the only time I can imagine being too sick to read would be me in a coma. And even then I’ve instructed my family to set up an audio book for me to listen to while in a coma. Anyway, reading this month was good for me. So, without further ado, here is my reading month.

Reading in December: 8 Books

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey [Library eBook]

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys [paperback]

How I Met My Countess by Elizabeth Boyle [Library eBook]

Love Letters from a Duke by Elizabeth Boyle [Library eBook]

Mad About a Duke by Elizabeth Boyle [Library eBook]

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi [paperback]

Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older [paperback]

Lord Langley is Back in Town by Elizabeth Boyle [Library eBook]

DNF/In Progress: 4 books

S. by J.J. Abrams, Doug Dorst

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

Talking As Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

Books acquired:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (BookMail Box)

Long Division by Kiese Laymon (BookMail Box)

Exit 22 by P.M Terrell (gift!)

Across the Web:

I’m a huge fan of historical dramas, and in November/December I watched The Crown on Netflix. I enjoyed it. How “real” or “true” it is isn’t as important to me as the story that it told. And I love stories. And I love thinking about and analyzing the stories that I read and watch. This is all left over from my years as English lit major in college and grad school. So when I find a new way to analyze how a story is told, I’m interested. And Tom and Lorenzo are fabulous commentators on fashion and how stories can be told through the costumes. And they did a wonderful job of making connections between the clothes worn by the characters and the story. Here is a link to their analysis of the first episode of The Crown entitled Wolverton Splash You will never look at pearl necklaces the same way again!

As is evidenced by the number of romance novels I read this month, it should be no surprise that I love to read about romance novels,too. For so many reasons the publishing industry looks down their noses at romance writers and readers. But the rise of the bodice ripper romance novel happened at the same time as the the 2nd wave of feminism and, you know, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Over on the website Jezabel they published a very interesting article about the rise of the bodice ripper in the 1970’s. Here is a link to the article. I’m old enough to have read many of the romance novels mentioned in the piece not long after the original print date., so I have a lot of affection for them even if they are problematic for today’s readers.

So that is my December. In the coming week or two I’ll be blogging about my 2016 challenges and plans for 2017. And a post about my favorite books of 2016, too. I’m looking forward to my upcoming reading year.

How was your reading life in December? Tell me in the comments, and be sure to leave a link to your December Wrap-Up, too. I love to see what everyone else is doing.