The Girls by Emma Cline
Reviewed by Whitney Spotts, Schuler Books, Lansing
This stunning debut is a spot-on 1960s coming of age story of a 14-year-old Evie Boyd who becomes mixed up with a “family” — obviously based on the Manson family — after she becomes enchanted with one of the family’s girls. The girls and their world, centered around the charismatic Russell (a thinly veiled Manson), seductively sparkle in comparison with Evie’s dismal home life, and Cline does a brilliant job of illustrating how an impressionable mind could easily become entangled in the cult-like atmosphere of Russell’s crew. The emotional confusion of the main character rings so true on so many points, as she tries to navigate attractions and desires that are so new, alongside her growing concern that all is not right with her new friends. The writing is thoughtful and beautiful beyond what a debut usually achieves. Highly recommended.
The Fifty Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: Volume One: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman
Reviewed by: Jim Tremlett, Schuler Books, Lansing
In the fifty years since the USS Enterprise began its historic first five-year mission, there have been a lot of books written about its genesis, production, death, and rebirth. Some have been better – or at least more revealing – than others, but most of them have only told the story from one viewpoint. Sadly, this only serves to relate one side of a very long and epic tale; given the egos and legends involved, some of those previous retellings have been rather self-serving.
Thanks to the oral history format of The Fifty Year Mission, we now have a very extensive grouping of perspectives, which makes for a much more complete picture than anything we have previously enjoyed. The authors have been diligent in including as many of the people involved with the show, its fandom, and subsequent films as possible – mostly relying on previously-written work, but with interviews with other individuals of note as well.
The tale they weave from this effort is quite revealing, at times even shocking. Thankfully, the more salacious bits are not there for the sake of titillation or sleaze factor, but rather to reveal that the legend was forged by real people, with real features and failings. Not everyone involved in the first 25 years of Star Trek comes off looking stellar, but no one – with the notable exception of NBC – is revealed as a villain, either. They are, as Kirk once said of Spock, human.
Volume One covers the period from the creation of the show to the sixth movie to feature the original cast. Volume Two promises to deal with the Next Generation, and subsequent Trek shows and movies, up to the point where JJ Abrams appears. If it’s anywhere as good as the first volume, you’ll want it to arrive in your hands at Warp 10.
The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
Reviewed by: Charity McMaster, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids
This one will stick with you, a benchmark book for readers budding into adult fiction: the grit and real world tension but without being explicit. A girl caught between a murder in her past that has never let her go and a future that somehow seems even more bleak, if that’s possible, suddenly finds herself back at the scene of the crime, and the unlikely lead for the investigation to what might have really happened. Not a sleuth by nature she somehow creeps into the truth, tests old waters, and finds a new beginning. My number one recommendation for teens ready for some substance.
The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts by Laura Tillman
Reviewed by: Whitney Spotts, Schuler Books & Music, Lansing
This powerful book, covering an incredibly sobering subject, is a triumph of thoughtful reportage and analysis. Author Laura Tillman digs deep into the story surrounding a brutal 2003 crime in which a young couple murdered their three children in a small town in Texas, looking beyond the initial revulsion such a tragedy elicits to the deeper issues that set the stage for horrific events. The incredibly thoughtful narrative has an intense sense of place, detailing the decay of a bordertown named, more than once, the poorest city in the U.S. What in lesser skilled hands might just be another true crime book, becomes a cultural contemplation of poverty and class, of abuse and mental illness swept under the rug. Moving and gripping, recommended for anyone interested in the greater social implications of crimes that ripple through a community.