Book Review: The Girls

The Girls by Emma Cline is a novel about a cult “inspired” – an odd word in this context – by the Manson Family and a girl, Evie, who becomes drawn into cult activity.

The Manson Family was an American cult, consisting mostly of women, led by Charles Manson in the late 1960s. The Manson Family responsible for a series of heinous murders in Los Angeles.

The Girls was written with a framed narrative from Evie’s adult perspective, as she tries to rebuild her life and an embedded narrative from Evie’s child perspective as she gradually becomes induced into the cult.

I think the novel may have worked equally as well without an adult perspective to frame the narrative; this would have left Evie’s future more open-ended. However, I liked that the adult perspective revealed what became of certain cult members once they were discovered.

The Girls was written in an incredibly effective first-person narrative voice. It spotlighted the deepest thoughts and desires of a young, vulnerable girl who wanted to be seen as beautiful, or clever – or simply be seen. It was clear, and saddening to read, how the cult provided her with that affirmation and drew her in.

The climax of The Girls was quite sudden; I was left wanting a little more – I could happily have had more of Cline’s writing, more of the story.

Evie’s manipulation and acceptance of the cult was shocking. It was also horrid to read how Russell, the older and manipulative cult leader based on Manson, coerced young girls into sexual activity by describing it as “sharing love” with one another.

Of course, unless you’re in that scenario, it’s incredibly difficult to believe people accepted the cult ideology. I couldn’t understand why Evie didn’t question what she was told. I couldn’t understand why her parents didn’t question Evie’s absences, her new appearance, her new behaviour.

The Girls highlighted how some parents are so barely interested or involved in their children’s lives that their child could join a cult and they would still have no idea. That shouldn’t happen.

In terms of writing style, The Girls was an easy read. In terms of content, it was not. You should read it anyway.

– Judith


Book Review: The Unquiet House

The Unquiet House by Alison Littlewood is a paranormal horror set in Yorkshire. It is about Emma Dean, a young woman who inherits Mire House, an old abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. However, Emma begins to see ghostly figures and wonder what secrets Mire House is keeping.

I wasn’t sure what to make of The Unquiet House – personally, I think Mire House might have worked as a better title, especially as I kept accidentally reading it as ‘The Uniquest House’.

As a Yorkshire native myself, Littlewood’s references to Yorkshire place-names and most characters’ Yorkshire accents, evidenced in their dialogue, were pleasant enough, though I can imagine some readers getting frustrated trying to translate!

The Unquiet House is separated into different narrative strands. Each strand is set in a different era, but all the narratives are linked by paranormal activities taking place at Mire House.

It’s a conventional enough horror story, with some very strong resemblances in places to The Woman In Black. Admittedly, I did like The Woman In Black, but it would be nice if modern ghost stories weren’t all the same. The Woman In Black film adaptation was released in 2012 and The Unquiet House was published in 2014, so I find it difficult to believe there wasn’t deliberate overlap.

The narrative of each strand was incredibly character-driven, which worked in Littlewood’s favour, as most characters were developed well enough for me to care about their fears.

However, ending was a very mixed bag; it fluctuated wildly between slightly dull with a great twist, fairly exciting, then back to dull. I would have much preferred a punchier, dramatic ending.

Overall, The Unquiet House was enjoyable, but I can’t recall anything overly scary happening; the supernatural occurrences didn’t feel as eerie as they could have been. A possible side-effect of reading too much Stephen King perhaps.

 – Judith

Book Review: Gaelan’s War by Thaddeus McGrath

Gaelan’s War is a horror thriller about a war veteran who must battle a growing population of werewolves after being stricken with the same curse.

My Photo [Gaelan's War].jpg

Gaelan’s War was gripping and well-written, and was a pleasure to read.

Gaelan, though I admit his name was confusing to pronounce, was a well-developed protagonist. His position as an ex-veteran, inspired by McGrath’s own experiences as a former U.S. Marine Corps fighter, provided an interesting backstory.

Other characters such as Trey, Angelo and Natalia were also a great group of antagonistic figures, though it took me longer than expected to remember who they were, and understand their group dynamic. However, towards the end of the story, glimpses of their personalities and relationships became clearer as they shared sarcastic moments.

The fight scenes in Gaelan’s War were fantastic and gory – not that I’m a huge fan of gore – and made it clear this was not a fluffy YA spin-off of sparkling vampires or angsty werewolves, reminding me of how great horror and thriller authors use gore to enhance descriptions too.

At various points in the story, such as in fight scenes or family gatherings, there are influxes of lots of minor characters. However, this resulted in a lot of random character names being thrown around, taking the focus away from the main characters and giving the impression these minor characters were only included to “make up the numbers”. I think these scenes would have worked better if people were loosely described or nicknamed by the narrator. The inclusion of names and character descriptions for multiple minor characters may bog a story down unnecessarily.

The use of capitalisation in dialogue also frustrated me, happening too often to ignore; if most the dialogue is written in CAPITALS then everyone is shouting and nothing is emphasised. I spoke to McGrath about this and he said, “It’s a carryover from my military days. That’s when you knew someone was yelling at you in a correspondence – never good when coming from your commanding officer!”

Speaking of (ha) dialogue, I also thought there were too many terms of affection used between characters such as ‘bubba’, ‘kiddo’ and ‘sweetie’. If people genuinely use these terms in real life, I apologise, but I found these difficult to read.

My favourite scenes were anything that included werewolf transformations and attacks or supernatural occurrences because these are the elements I enjoy most in supernatural horror fiction.

The ending was open-ended, leaving room for a sequel, but Gaelen’s War can function as a stand-alone novel too.

I liked Gaelan’s War and if you like war stories, action, horror or the supernatural, you will too.

Star Rating: 4/5

Gaelan’s War is available to buy as a paperback or hardback from or

– Judith