I’ve really been enjoying historical fiction the past few years, so when I heard about The Silver Blonde I was excited to add another title to my TBR! I was also curious as I hadn’t read anything set in post WWII Los Angeles and was intrigued to see how the entertainment industry was impacted by the war, especially in the context of a mystery.
Hollywood, 1946. The war is over, and eighteen-year-old Clara Berg spends her days shelving reels as a vault girl at Silver Pacific Studios, with all her dreams pinned on getting a break in film editing. That and a real date with handsome yet unpredictable screenwriter Gil. But when she returns a reel of film to storage one night, Clara stumbles across the lifeless body of a woman in Vault 5. The costume, the makeup, the ash-blond hair are unmistakable--it has to be Babe Bannon, A-list star. And it looks like murder.
Suddenly Clara's world is in free-fall, her future in movies upended--not to mention that her refugee parents are planning to return to Germany and don't want her to set foot on the studio lot again. As the Silver Blonde murder ignites Tinseltown, rumors and accusations swirl. The studio wants a quick solve, but the facts of the case keep shifting. Nothing is what it seems--not even the victim.
Clara finds herself drawn, inevitably, to the murder investigation, and the dark side of Hollywood. But how far is she willing to go to find the truth?
This story had a lot of interesting elements going on- a mystery, an exploration of the film industry in the aftermath of WWII, the German immigrant experience in America after the war, the journey of women beginning to hold more editorial and behind the scenes roles in Hollywood- truly, there was a lot being explored in this 400 page novel. With a bit of Nancy Drew flair, protagonist Clara ends up embroiled in a murder mystery after finding an actress’ body in the film vaults. Following Clara as she picked up clues, made connections, and unearthed corruption at the movie studio made for a respectable tale, but I was more intrigued by her personal struggle between identifying as German vs. American, her dreams of holding a career in film and living on her own, and her complicated past with how she viewed Germany as a child and reconciling it with the horrors that came with the war. While the story was solid, it didn’t focus as much I would have liked on these intense issues Clara was dealing with in favor of the mystery, and I almost feel as though the book could’ve been a story in and of itself without the mystery element.
Overall: A decent historical fiction mystery novel, but not one that was particularly memorable for me.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Killing November by Adriana Mather
Also by this author: How to Hang a Witch, Haunting the Deep (How to Hang a Witch, #2)
Series: Killing November #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on March 26, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 416 •Format: ARC •Source: ALA
This book was just not it for me. I really thought I’d enjoy it because, hello, spy boarding school? Secret societies? Families that have been pulling the strings for centuries behind the most monumental historical events? Sign me RIGHT up. However, this novel just felt so…teenagery to me. I get it, I’m not a teen anymore and YA isn’t supposed to be geared toward me, but protagonist November just felt so gratingly immature and special-snowflake like that it was hard for me to get through this one. It’s especially surprising because I honestly have enjoyed the other books by the author in her How to Hang a Witch series.
It’s a school completely off the grid, hidden by dense forest and surrounded by traps. There’s no electricity, no internet, and an eye-for-an-eye punishment system. Classes include everything from Knife-Throwing and Poisons to the Art of Deception and Historical Analysis. And all of the students are children of the world’s most elite strategists—training to become assassins, counselors, spies, and master impersonators. Into this world walks November Adley, who quickly discovers that friends are few in a school where personal revelations are discouraged and competition is everything. When another student is murdered, all eyes turn to November, who must figure out exactly how she fits into the school’s bizarre strategy games before she is found guilty of the crime…or becomes the killer’s next victim.
This book really struggled to keep my interest, and oftentimes it felt like a chore to pick it up again, only to get distracted five minutes later. What eventually kept me going was the historical tidbits that were woven in (something the author does well in all of her books). However, I don’t know if it’s enough to get me to pick up the sequel when the main character held no appeal to me and I got irritated by how much information was constantly withheld.