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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#CJSReads REVIEW: LOLA by Melissa Scrivner Love

LOLA by Melissa Scrivner Love
Crown Publishing
Publishing TODAY 3/21/17

A fantastic debut novel that takes you by surprise.  Don't mess with Lola or The Crenshaw Six.  Better to sit back and read their story.  Whether you agree with her moral values or way of life, you'll learn to love her for all she stands for.  You haven't met a stronger female protagonist.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia . . . but what no one has figured out is that the gang's real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia's girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola. 

Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man's world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter--and in many ways tougher and more ruthless--than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival. 

An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman who combines the genius and ferocity of Lisbeth Salander with the ruthless ambition of Walter White. Lola marks the debut of a hugely exciting new thriller writer, and of a singular, magnificent character unlike anyone else in fiction.

Jessica's Thoughts:
4 / 5 Stars

I didn't know much about this book before I started reading it, but I've always been intrigued by gangs and cartels. So as soon as I saw that it was about a gang in South Central LA, I couldn't wait to start!

Gangs are nothing new to South Central LA, but the Crenshaw Six is an up and coming one that gets dragged into the escalating drug war by the Mexican cartel. The cartel threatens Garcia, who they think is Crenshaw's leader, that they will kill his girlfriend Lola if he doesn't cooperate with them. Little do they know, Lola is actually the leader of the Crenshaw Six, and isn't one to be messed with. She is as ruthless as she is smart and earned her position, because of this she has the loyalty of her men that will follow her every instruction. With the escalating violence of the drug war, will she be able to find a way to handle everything going on and still be able to maintain her role as leader?

Not only did I love this because of the gang culture, I loved this because it is a whole new kind of strong female lead. The woman as the head of a gang and helping wage war with the drug cartels? Definitely something I haven't read before! This was one where we didn't jump from perspectives, which I did enjoy. We got to stay with Lola the whole time and see her piece together whats happening, what moves she needed to make next, and how she decided to handle different situations. 

I feel that Melissa Scrivner Love did an incredible job with the characters, there were times I felt there were a lot of them to keep straight, but that would be my only complaint! I loved her writing style as well. She could just paint the perfect image for you throughout the story. Some scenes were harder than others (what's a drug war without some violence), but they were all necessary and fit together so well. Unlike most of the thrillers we've read, there wasn't a big climatic ending, but that was alright because now I need a sequel! I'd say this was a fantastic debut and I can't wait for more from Love!

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Sam's Thoughts:
3.5 / 5 Stars

Lola, the debut by Melissa Scrivner Love, is not a novel that I would have picked out on my own.  I am not usually drawn to books with cartels or gangs, but I am glad I took a chance on this one.  It actually ended up being a pretty entertaining read.

The novel follows a gang, the Crenshaw Six, which operates in South Central.  Seemingly at the head, a young man named Garcia leads the Crenshaw Six through their deals with drug cartels and other gangs.  However, underneath it all and at the crux of the gang is its true leader, Lola. 

In all honestly, the character of Lola made this book for me, I believe that if any other character had been central, I probably wouldn’t have made it past the first five chapters.   She is strong willed and, frankly, kind of scary.  She definitely plays with the big boys and isn’t afraid to make sacrifices for the good of those around her.  I love Love just shattered gender stereotypes with this character, especially in her build up and the introduction of Lola.  This was literary brilliance.

My one complaint was the amount of characters.  There were so many main characters and secondary characters; I found myself getting mixed up and confusing their relationships.  I had to go back several times to read and reread.    I think it almost would have been helpful to have some sort of gang “family tree” to show who everyone was and how everyone fit together.    This amount of confusion made parts of the novel drag on. 

That being said, I applaud Love at her ability in creating a character such as Lola and I feel that this one screams to be turned into a television show.  It was sort of the perfect blend of Sons of Anarchy and Narcos.

Follow Sam on InstagramTwitter, Goodreads and her Blog!

My Thoughts:
4 / 5 Stars

South Central LA has several gangs, but the one known as The Crenshaw Six has the Mexican cartel tapping on them to wage war on rival dealers. They tell Crenshaw's leader, Garcia, that if they don't follow through and do what they say, they will kill his girlfriend, Lola. They have no idea that Lola, in fact, is the true leader of The Crenshaw Six and she is watching their every move. She didn't become the leader without having to earn it. And because of her actions and strength, the men behind her will do whatever she says to protect her. Loyalties run high and are tested, brutal punishments are meted out and families grow in number, if not in 
blood. Lola has to find a way to balance it all, without losing her position, her family or her life. 

Into the first few chapters, I wasn't sure if this was the book for me. But the more I read, the further I was sucked into the gang life of The Crenshaw Six. Inside Lola's head for the entire ride, we see her piece together puzzles, make tough decisions to keep the law of her world running smoothly and take a young child under her wing. As a rare woman leader in that type of life, she can no longer continue to rule from the shadows but may have to go further than she thought she was capable of to make her voice heard. 

A truly remarkable debut novel. Melissa Scrivner Love knows how to write. By the end of the book I was rooting for Lola and couldn't stop turning the pages to see what would come up next. There were some truly amazing scenes that I could visualize clearly in my head and I felt my face actually cringe. There is no big bang of an ending and there was no need for one. I'm left wanting, thinking, so now what? I'm need to know what is next for these characters.. and if an author can do that, I think she's done a pretty damn good job with her story. Debut novel win! 

Huge thanks to Crown Publishing for this copy in return for my honest review.

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