Cover Image: Plain Bad Heroines

Plain Bad Heroines

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed this!

A creepy book with gothic vibes set around a possibly haunted boarding school - right up my alley! I was also here for all of the queer female characters.

This was a really witty story with a lot of different layers. The author could easily have fallen into the trap of having the story get overly confusing or one timeline boring in comparison to the other. That was not the case here. Each storyline had rich characters and was equally as interesting as the the other in my opinion. I also enjoyed the almost sarcastic narration style with the witty footnotes.

Highly recommend checking this one out.
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The narration, the story, just brilliantly creepy and chilling. 

This book is unlike anything I have read before. The duel timelines worked seamlessly and the story kept you guessing. The story was layered and the characters fantastically written. The three main characters Merritt, Audrey and Harper are complex and don’t fall into the one dimensional woman and LGBTQ+ traps that a lot of authors struggle with. Their relationships felt authentic and nuanced. 

I loved the fact that it was told from a outside narrators POV. I can’t remember the last book I read that had that. 

As someone who is not big on horror, I was glad that there wasn’t any big scare moments. If you like that in your horror, this isn’t for you.
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I am so happy that I was able to read 'Plain Bad Heroines' by Emily M. Danforth and I cannot wait to read Danforth's previous work!  

Going into this, I knew I was at least going to enjoy it. It had everything I wanted; a haunted mansion and boarding school, queer cast of characters and killer wasps. It became one of my most anticipated reads. 

'Plain Bad Heriones' was beautifully written with one of the most entertaining narrators I have ever read. The omniscient narrator was my favourite character in this story. I loved them. The times that I laughed out loud was directly a result of the wittiness of the narrator. It also spoke of how well this book was written. 'Plain Bad Heroines' was one of the most beautifully written books I have read this year. The way Danforth used language itself was brilliant - I wanted to read this book with a pen in my hand because there were so many quotes I wanted to underline. So many poignant sentences that hit me hard. I remember thinking, I wish more contemporary adult books were written like this. There was an almost lyrical quality to it. 

The story itself was incredibly unique. I enjoyed learning about Alex and Libbie; Flo, Clara and Eleanor; and Harper, Aubrey and Merrick. The two timelines and the interconnection was engaging and interesting. I did find the constant perspective switching slightly frustrating, though, as it made my reading of this book feel slightly disjointed and unable to fully connect with any of the characters. I also thought that the pacing was slightly off and the 'climax' of the story not really worth the 500+ build up for the last 100 pages. 

I wanted more of the actual filming of the movie with Harper, Aubrey and Merrick. Instead, after a character death, the entire expedition is skipped and the next scene we meet is at the premiere of the movie. I also felt that the 'twist' of the novel was lacklustre. This novel started off so strongly but it ended less with an oomph and more with a mumble.
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Not what I was expecting and just couldn't get into it. It is well written but the story is just not for me I guess.
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I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this from #Netgalley (thank you) but could only read it on my phone. I find this medium very frustrating! BUT I was loving the book so much that I bought myself a copy! ⁣
⁣
I’ll let you know once I’ve finished it, but so far it’s rollicking fun. ⁣
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First of all – I need to say that I love, love, love how lesbian and sapphic and queer this book is! More books need to be so unapologetically sapphic.

This book was, for me, really hard to get into. I feel like there needed to have been required reading before starting this book, as some things just flew straight over my head.

However, the writing is impeccable, and made for a compelling read.

The fact that this was like a book in a book, or at least a story within a story was so wonderful. I enjoyed reading about the past at Brookhants, and also the present time with our three main women – Harper, Merritt, and Audrey. 

There were parts in the middle that I struggled with reading, but on the whole, it was quite good.

This book is very atmospheric and was a perfect October read, too. When the audio book comes out next year, I might read it again so I can get even more of the awesome eerie vibe from it!
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Film sets?
Sapphics?
Curses and strange happenings?
It's like this book knows all the ways to keep me intrigued.

This is multiple tales told in one, all (predominantly) set in the mysterious Brookhants School for Girls and it's adjacent abode, Spite Manor in Rhode Island where chaos ensues.

Plain Bad Heroines has a rarely seen (in my recently read) omniscient narrator with a personality all their own. The last time I read a book with one was the beautiful Nevernight trilogy so you can imagine with my love for that series that this was an exciting development. The utilisation of this style of storytelling (footnotes and all) makes it somewhat easier to embark on this heady journey of a 600+ read. However it did also sometimes hinder the flow as some notes felt as though they didn't add to the story or to the overall intrigue of the book.

Did I just say 600+ pages, yes, this is a tomb, my friends.
There's a lot in here, seriously there's a book within a book, a movie within a movie and side stories upon side stories but I digress. It isn't only abundant in page numbers but also in characters. With multiple storylines to cover it took a long time to get acquainted with everyone. This made beginning this book kind of tough and slow going. However, it really found a rhythm and once I hit the halfway point though it all flew by and I was suddenly reaching the end.

Like with many books that follow multiple characters you're going to have your favourite focal points and I definitely found mine. For the most part I was far more intrigued by what was happening in present day than anything that preceded it, which I now realise is a little strange seeing as that is where all of the mystery and lore surrounding Brookhants comes to life. Perhaps this is because out of our three modern heroines, two are actors, and all three are working together on a film set, which is something I can connect to and find enjoyment in. Whereas I struggled to fully connect to our women of the 1900s and didn't much care for what happened with them only for what was happening to them. Toward the end of the book, even though things were really amping up, I found myself a little disheartened when I turned the page to find I was once again back in the 1900s. (Upon reading other reviews it seems I may be somewhat alone in this preference so obviously, as with anything, go into this open minded and enjoy the ride).

The real take from a book as large as this, even when it slows down, is whether or not you really want to keep picking it up, which I absolutely did. Once the film started to gain traction I was onboard and ready to find out just what the hell was going on, if any of it was really happening, and if it was, h o w was it happening (make it make sense!). I also loved and appreciated just how female centric and how queer this book was. It was fascinating to compare the societies in which these queer women inhabit and how that affects them living authentically. Another refreshing element were the quiet nods to pop culture, something I absolutely live for because this is how I relate everything. (Seriously I often recommend a book by telling you what film or tv show it's like, ask my friends).

Now, the horror aspect (or should I say the lack of horror aspect?). There were definitely some eerie vibes in here and some gruesome deaths but if you're going into this wanting to be scared or truly horrified, I'm sorry but it isn't going to happen, unless maybe if this is your first foray into the genre. Though this is coming from someone who has been surrounded by horror films and a sprinkling of horror novels my whole life so read into that however you would like (my friends never trust my judgement on a scary movie so...). Personally, I would say it's a light dip into the horror pool, utilising perhaps more of a gothic horror element in parts. So on this front I have to say I was quite disappointed. I was so ready for some queer horror!

Okay, so all of this kind of makes it sound like I didn't really enjoy the book, huh? Well, my friends, I can say that for the most part I really did love my time with Plain Bad Heroines and I do highly recommend it, just not when you may feel a reading slump coming on because you will need some perseverance here.
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I loved Emily M. Danforth’s first novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and count it among my favourites. 
So naturally when I heard that Danforth was releasing a new novel, with more queer characters and a horror theme, I was so excited to read it. 

Plain Bad Heroines is nothing like The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Not in genre, story, narrative or writing style. Where TMoCP bought me in and made me feel a whole spectrum of feelings, PBH took a lot more effort. There are many moving parts to this story, we have numerous plot points and characters to follow in the past, as well as in the present. 

I really really wanted to like this book more, but I found it difficult to settle into the narrative style, The 4th wall, so many plots and characters to be following, the footnotes, and the backwards and forwards storytelling - disrupted the flow of the story during pivotal moments, had a negative effect on my reading experience. I did enjoy it, but not as much as I had hoped I would. 

Thank you to Emily M. Danforth, HarperCollins Australia, and NetGalley for an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Emily M. Danforth’s adult debut is a dark comedic sapphic horror that you won’t be able to put down. The plot is complex and impressive and once you’ve finished it, you’re left wondering at the sheer scale of what you just read.

Plain Bad Heroines follows five women over the course of a century. In the early 1900s, Brookhants School for Girls becomes infamous after a series of deaths on the property, and a curse has haunted it ever since. Principal Libbie and her lover, Alex, try to contain the school in the aftermath, but begin to succumb to the curse themselves. A century later, Merritt writes a book about Brookhants and the women involved, while Harper and Audrey, one a famous actress, the other barely memorable, are brought on to star in the movie adaptation, and start to realise that there was more to the Brookhants curse than anyone realised.

It takes a lot of work to so successfully weave together multiple storylines and character perspectives alongside unchronological storytelling, but Danforth manages it. This is wonderfully done through the inclusion of the narrator, who leaves substantial footnotes and puts together the convulted story for the reader. The narrator will pop in every now and again to further explain a scene or to leave creepy, foreshadowed messages to us.

This isn’t your typical horror novel, as there’s no ghosts or supernatural forces, just humans behaving in horrific ways. But in a way, that makes the book scarier then I imagined, as the novel focuses on the true horror of our society: men taking what they want from women. The novel begins with the terrible death of two sapphic lovers as they’re pursued by a male cousin, and just gets more heartbreaking from there. I will warn sapphic readers not to expect a happy romance from this book, as many queer women die. But even so, I really enjoyed the descriptions of open sapphic school love during the early 1900s, which was historically accurate.

I did struggle with the characters at times. Audrey was my favourite character from the modern trio as she had the most to prove as a pretty lacklustre actress trying to show her mettle. The moments she stood up for herself were fantastic. I had a love/hate relationship with Merritt as her arrogance and constant peevishness got on my nerves. But as the novel developed, I stared to like her, especially as she grew closer to the other women. Harper was definitely the “fun one” out of the trio, who is always there for a good time and openly embraces her sexuality. Occasionally, she got a bit tiring, but for the most part, Harper was an interesting character and kind of reminds me of a lesbian version of Jennifer Lawrence 😅. Each character, though, was wonderfully complex and fierce, and the definition of a plain bad heroine.

If you’re someone who doesn’t like horror novels all that much, I have a feeling you’re going to enjoy Plain Bad Heroines! The creepy elements and diverse characters make for an enjoyable reading experience. You’re never quite sure what to expect from this novel, and that’s half the fun.
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Wow Plain Bad Heroines is one that's gonna stick with me! This is a gorgeously gothic sapphic story that I absolutely adored. Its dark and twisty and funny and sweet its complex and compelling. This is a book that I'm not sure it has mass widespread appeal, it's long, perhaps overly convoluted at times, none of the characters are particularly likeable (although they are absolutely loveable) and it's weird, so weird. But I think it's also going to be a perfect book for its audience. I loved it so much and already excited about rereading.
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“A heroine, the kind you read about, a woman admired for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities”

Bookhants is a school for girls. In 1902 two students controversially fell madly involve with each other and became obsessed with the story of Mary McLane. Clara and Flo were found dead in the woods, attacked by yellow jackets (wasps) their copy of Mary McLane found lying next to them.

The school was closed a few years later but only after another 3 people died. The school was cursed and there was no saving it. Fast forward to 100 years later and the schools doors are open again but this time it’s open to film a movie about the curse of Brookhants.

Seamlessly the past and present becomes entwined and the curse never left! I loved Harper and Merritt. They made this book come to life. Their dynamic and chemistry just worked.

This dark, incredible, descriptive, queer novel is absolutely huge. So detailed and perfect in every way. The size did intimidate me at first but once I hit my stride I devoured every page. Story aside this is one of the prettiest books I’ve ever seen. The cover is devine and the illustrations though out the book are captivating.

I’m going to leave you with my favourite quote from this masterpiece;

When a Brook-hants, mind the hour,
for here time is queer.
If you think you hold the power,
death will draw you near.
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I received this arc from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Although I frequently lost interest at times and was frustrated by some scenes dragging on, I recognize that it is a clever and original story. Made up of two major storylines and many interwoven stories, I enjoyed the creepiness and dark atmosphere. 

I liked the way we got to see inside the thinking of each character and what they thought of each other without the need for separate chapters devoted to individual viewpoints.

I'm basing my 4 out of 5 stars rating on my view of the book's overall qualities rather than on my actual enjoyment of the book. I think it would appeal to a lot of people.
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