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Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love
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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I saw this book in the bookstore recently and it was shelved with the mysteries/thrillers. It's definitely not a mystery, a little closer to thriller, but I'm not sure that quite fits right either, having since looked up the definition. Regardless, it's definitely one of the most unique and interesting books I've read in a while.

It tells the story of a young women in LA who grew up poor and abused by her drug addict mother. As an adult, she does her best to protect her younger brother and eventually takes over her boyfriend's gang, one of the only choices available to young people of her socio-economic background, aside from poorly paid jobs like domestic labor. She manages to exist under the radar though, allowing everyone else to assume one of the men in the gang is in charge.

It's a very plot-driven book, following Lola during a period of about ten days, during which she struggles with insubordination, cartel goons, a local drug supplier and her mother's drug problems. She has to make difficult choices and does so without regret and little remorse. She does what she must to survive and protect the weak. There is violence, but it's not terribly graphic.

Looking forward to what this author does next! ( )
  schmootc | Mar 29, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Lola is another novel in which the timing of its release is just about perfect. After all, what could be more representative of the slogan “Nevertheless, she persisted” than a female drug lord in the traditionally male-ruled South Central LA? The fact that no one recognizes her as the leader underscores what millions of women have and continue to face in every career field in existence since women started working outside the home. Men never consider women natural leaders and often fail to recognize those skills in women or deem them unladylike. For Lola, being ladylike is not the issue, but being the cold-blooded murderer necessary to lead a gang is very much the issue. Make no mistake, Lola is capable of murder and so much more.

Lola is no hero. In fact, she is as dirty as any drug lord and as ruthless. You should not support her efforts to increase her territory; she is, after all, peddling the very same drugs that harm the residents of her community. However, it does not take long to realize that she is a victim as much as she is an instigator. Moreover, she might not hesitate to pull the trigger or slit someone’s throat, but she is also emotionally vulnerable. She may be a drug lord but she is also a woman with a severely traumatic childhood and someone who is not quite as capable of compartmentalizing different areas of her life as she should be. As such, it becomes way too easy to sympathize and even pity Lola for what life forced onto her.

In spite of the awesome female power Lola exudes as the gang leader, one cannot help but get a sneaking suspicion that Ms. Love is enforcing one too many stereotypes onto her female anti-hero. Throughout the course of the novel Lola exhibits a nurturing side, considering her gang members to be her boys and the gang’s turf her community to protect. She is the leader but wants her boyfriend’s opinion. She second-guesses her decisions and sometimes opts for lesser punishments other than those established by the gang code. Even though she is the leader, she is also the gang’s nurturer. It is an odd dichotomy given her profession and one that appears to exist only because she is female. In fact, the other gang leaders we meet are not so hesitant to mete out the appropriate level of punishment or get caught up doing menial tasks around the house. Then again, this could be me projecting. Perhaps Ms. Love meant nothing by the fact that Lola cleans her mother’s house on her hands and knees each week, that she has to worry about keeping her man happy so that he doesn’t run back to his ex-girlfriend, that she shows mercy in a position where none typically exists. While I celebrate seeing a strong women in power, I struggle with the message Ms. Love also seems to present regarding traditional female roles and behaviors.

Just because I may feel uncomfortable about some of the story’s messaging, that does not mean that I did not rip through the novel as quickly as possible, fervently wishing I did not have to adult but could keep reading. The plot pacing is fast and furious, and Lola IS a sympathetic character, stereotypes or not. You become emotionally involved in her story, rooting her on, hoping that she can stay alive. Even her acts of violence take on an acceptable hue as you view them as a means for Lola to succeed, and you so want her to succeed because she represents every battered woman, every neglected and abused child, every woman given up for lost. For her to come out alive and even ahead is a win for everyone she embodies.
  jmchshannon | Mar 28, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Lola started off slow for me, but over time I started to develop more interest especially since Lola is quite a fascinating protagonist. Through this book you get a criminal's point of view, which I also find to be an interesting element. It's set in LA and follows Lola and the Crenshaw Six. To outsiders Lola is just one of the gang member's girlfriend, but really she is the brains and leader calling the shots. Overall, if you are a fan of crime novels or shows, Lola would be a book for you. It's faced paced after the first hundred-ish pages, has well developed characters, and an interesting point of view that gives a glimpse into gangs in South Central LA. I'm definitely impressed with this debut novel. ( )
  Holiday225 | Mar 27, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Lola is adept at pretending to be less than she is. To the world she is the dutiful girlfriend to her gang-leader boyfriend, Garcia. She cooks, she cleans, and she keeps house. What no one outside the Crenshaw Six realizes is that Lola is actually the power behind the throne. In reality she is the sharply intelligent and utterly ruthless leader of their gang. When a representative of the Mexican Cartel makes the small-time gang an offer they can’t refuse, Lola finds herself drawn increasingly deeper into the world of the international drug trade. As the stakes get higher, Lola has to use every tool in her arsenal to ensure that not only does she survive, but that her gang makes it out on top.

This is a stong debut showing by former CSI: Miami writer Maria Scrivner Love. The character of Lola is well-realized as a strong, intelligent woman who must always play the part of the quiet, subservient girlfriend in order to succeed in the man’s world of the drug trade. Her internal struggle between feeling the need to adhere to social norms and her desire to be recognized for her own accomplishments mirrors the struggle of all ambitious women, no matter the legitimacy of their work.

Also on full display in this book are the racial tensions within the city of Los Angeles. Each group, latino, black, and white, have set aside their own exclusive areas within the city, and stepping outside one’s assigned area invites suspicion at best and violence at worst.

In all, this is an original and intriguing thriller. The action is fast-paced, the characters well realized and multidimensional. Fans of crime fiction will enjoy this book, as will anyone looking for an atypical book featuring a strong female protagonist.

An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher via LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  irregularreader | Mar 27, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"All people everywhere, rich or poor, skinny or fat, are animals. Looking for a fight. Looking to turn everyone against the weakest.

Who is Lola? Dad was never in the picture and Mom was a drug addict who exchanged young Lola's body for her latest fix. Lola quickly grew a thick skin and acclimated to life in the underbelly of Los Angeles. Now she is the girlfriend of Garcia, the apparent leader of the drug running gang the Crenshaw Six. Trouble arises when cartel leaders task the gang with infiltrating a drop from a local competitor. Success will give the gang a higher status within the cartel. As further motivation, the cartel leader gives Garcia an ultimatum. Complete the interception or they will take away the one thing that matters most to Garcia. . . Lola's life.

Unbeknownst to the cartel, Garcia is not the one calling the shots. It is actually Lola, the woman they dismissed as mere collateral, who covertly oversees the Crenshaw Six. When Carlos, a former lover and the leader of the gang, began to selfishly keep money for himself instead of sharing with the other gang members, Lola murdered him and took the reigns of the group. Clearly, Lola is no traditional damsel in distress! Relying on her intellect and cold-blooded instincts, Lola goes head to head with some of the most ruthless men in the drug circle to advance the mission of the Crenshaw Six and save her own life.

As the main story of besting the cartel unfolds, Lola also finds herself in a situation that is even more personal than saving her life. Lola harbors five-year-old Lucy whose early life mirrors her own. Lucy's mother is an addict who pimps the young girl to her boyfriend. Her parents are good people who try to give their granddaughter some kind of reprieve, but their landlord happens to be the father of their daughter's boyfriend. Their fear of eviction renders them silent against the horrors young Lucy faces. Determined to save Lucy from the life that Lola was forced to live, she takes on the young girl as her own. Even as Lola's entire world seems to be crashing in around her, she refuses to allow Lucy to return to the mistreatment of her home.

In Lola, author Melissa Scrivner Love writes a thriller that contains the suspense, character development, and creativity of a seasoned veteran. The title says it all. This book is completely devoted to Lola and the people she surrounds herself with. Lola precariously balances on the edge of what is right and wrong. On the one hand, she conducts her business with a strict moral code. Lola cares deeply about her community and her gang members. At the same time, she is not afraid to get her hands dirty when the situation requires it, even if that means sacrificing personal loyalties. By having a woman be the leader of a gang in a predominately male industry, the author gives a unique perspective to what could easily have been a straight-forward drug thriller. Melissa Scrivner Love writes with an assured sense of place and voice that makes her a definite author to watch in the future. Lola is a solidly competent debut that I thoroughly enjoyed. ( )
  es135 | Mar 27, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451496108, Hardcover)

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

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.      

Lola marks the debut of a hugely exciting new thriller writer, and of a singular, magnificent character unlike anyone else in fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 06 Sep 2016 22:35:32 -0400)

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