A Maniacal Book Club Review: The Frankenstein Journals…


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Allow me to bid fair morning to you, be you fleshling, stone-ish or monstrosity uncategorised.  Today the Maniacal Book Club is proud to present and discuss the soon-to-be-released middle grade novel The Frankenstein Journals by Scott Sonneborn, dealing, as it does, with the growing pains of a monster on a quest.  We were delighted to receive a digital copy of this illustrated lovely from the publisher via Netgalley – our sincerest thanks!

The Frankenstein Journals follows fourteen-year-old J.D. (John Doe) from the moment he learns that the only home he has ever known – Mr Shelley’s Orphanage for Lost and Neglected Children – is about to become his ex-abode, as Mr Shelley is no longer financially able to keep it open.  Before leaving, J. D. discovers his father’s old journal and is astounded to discover that he is the son of Frankenstein’s monster, and made up of a collection of …shall we say…recycled body parts.  Rather than being daunted by this new information, J.D. sees it as the perfect opportunity to obtain what he’s always wanted – a proper family – and resolves to seek out the descendents of those who once belonged to his parts and inform them of their tenuous biological link.  Before setting off on his quest, J.D. meets one Fran Kenstein, the daughter of the famous scientist and finds out that she too would like to meet J.D.’s family…but for reasons that are distinctly more sinister.  Now it’s a race against time, and J.D. is determined to find his long-lost cousins before Fran gets there first and sets whatever dastardly plan she has concocted into devillishly devious motion.

frankenstein journals

Now pop in your most high-functioning spare eyeballs for the thoughts of the Maniacal Book Club!

maniacal book club toothlessToothless 

This was a fun book to read even though there were no dragons.  There were some monsters though, so that was almost as good.  In one part there’s a sports mascot convention and there’s an enormous building filled with a huge crowd of people dressed as all kinds of animals and monsters.  And then a wolf-man turns up and started slashing things.  That was my favourite bit.  I really liked J.D.  He sounds like a fun and adventurous kind of guy. Shame there were no dragons though.  Maybe there’ll be some in the next book.

maniacal book club martha

Mad Martha

Being from the patchwork-monster genus myself, I found much to empathise with as I read J.D’s adventures.  And what a loveable young rogue he is, as pure of heart as any monster could feasibly be.  As usual, I have created a poem to express my enjoyment of this book.  I thought I’d branch out this time to limerickery.  Enjoy.

A lad formed from patchwork quite frightful

Met a lass with a plan truly spiteful.

He hoped for the best

and set out on a quest,

Sure his family would find him delightful!

maniacal book club guru dave

Guru Dave

Brothers and sisters, I hope with every stony fibre of my being that you grasp the message of hope that the son of Frankenstein’s monster presents to you in this book – the message that no matter how different one may be from others, by trusting in the goodness of one’s fellow wayfarers on life’s journey, a place of belonging can be found for all of us.

Heed also, my friends, the bad example of Fran Kenstein – that evil can dwell even in the hearts of the cutest teenage scientist.


maniacal book club bruce


Now I’ve been reading a lot of middle grade fiction of this genre lately, and while this doesn’t quite match up to the slick, funny and original Origami Yoda series, for instance, The Frankenstein Journals has a charm all its own.  In this offering we are treated to the first two legs of J.D.’s body-part hunt (see what I did there?!), as he searches for the relations of his feet and one of his eyeballs (the green one, incidentally).  In the middle of the book there’s a sort of short recap of the first half of the story,  so I’m not sure whether the publishers originally intended on even shorter episodes, or whether they are catering to readers with short attention spans.  Either way, the plot is simple and flows from scene to scene with very little to slow the action. J.D., the main character, is so perfectly friendly and positive that you can’t help but hope for the best for his quest across continents to seek out his long lost family members. 

While the book would easily suit the interests of both genders, this will be a particular hit with boys.  In fact, I would suggest that while this is a middle grade novel, its appeal would lean toward the lower end of that age bracket, and I can certainly see confident readers around the eight to nine year old mark being thoroughly sucked in to J.D.’s silly and humorous adventures. 

What really added to the overall appeal of the book for me was the eye-poppingly colourful illustrations that appear throughout the story.  They absolutely bring J.D.’s story to life and will no doubt be very much appreciated by younger readers.  I have to say, the illustration of the “crowd scene” during the mascot convention that Toothless has already alluded to has got to be my favourite – like a Where’s Wally? of the animal kingdom, but without the distinctive bobble hat.

Our final deliberations have led us to the conclusion that this will be a hit with the monster-loving tween set, and for that reason it receives 8 thumbs up from the Maniacal Book Club.



The Frankenstein Journals is due to be released on August the 1st.

Until next time,

Bruce (and the gang!)

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Jesper Jinx: A Maniacal Book Club Review…


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Morning all, and welcome to another meeting of the Maniacal Book Club! Today we have a middle grade illustrated chapter book that leaves no depth unplumbed in the humorous misadventure category.  It is Jesper Jinx by Finnish author Marko Kitti.  Marko is the first Finnish author we’ve had on the blog so far, so we’ve come over all multicultural.  But let’s get on with it!

Jesper Jinx

Jesper Jinx is an eleven year old boy who seems to attract trouble like nobody’s business.  This book follows some of Jesper’s escapades (two and a half, to be exact), as told to author Marko Kitti.  In the first story, Jesper accidentally gives his cat, Snowy, a new fur colour and in the second, Jesper accidentally gives away some of his best pranks to a teaching insider.  Essentially, this is a written record of the things that can go wrong in hilarious ways when a bored young lad is unleashed upon unsuspecting passers-by. 

Guru Dave

maniacal book club guru dave

My friends, this book is all about learning one’s lesson, about gaining self-control and about turning one’s skills to good, not evil.  Actually, in all honesty my friends, this book is about none of those things.  It is about mayhem and chaos and shenanigans perpetrated upon the unwary and innocent.

The boy Jinx has a telling catchphrase throughout this book: “What harm would it do to have a little fun?” Kitti’s writings recorded here explain fully the extent of how wrong things may go if left in the hands of an unsupervised eleven year old boy.  I fear for the karma of the Jinx boy.


maniacal book club toothless

No dragons in this book. There’s lots of trouble though.  And a cat that gets turned red.  And a kid with a moustache – I thought that was pretty funny.  But no dragons.  That’s probably a good thing because Jesper with a dragon could be more than the world is ready for.  Still. It might be more fun if there was  a dragon.

Mad Martha

Jesper Jinx, Jesper Jinx,maniacal book club martha

If he were a girl, you’d call him a minx.

His crazy behaviour will make parents groan,

He probably shouldn’t be let out on his own.

Heed this advice that I freely share::

Should you see Jesper coming, by heavens, beware!


maniacal book club bruceJesper Jinx is the kind of book that will have kids aged about 7 and up rolling in the aisles as they read about Jesper’s wildly chaotic adventures.  The book is a short read with a great formatting balance between text and illustrations and will have the young ones (especially boys, methinks) turning the pages until they’ve uncovered the whole sorry tale of Jesper’s antics. The story is packed full of kid friendly humour, like playing pranks on one’s teacher, and is really all about innocent fun.

Kitti’s style is very much like a combination of Roald Dahl and David Walliams, so if you’ve read either of those two authors (and really, who hasn’t?!) you’ll know exactly what you’re in for here.  There’s plenty of silliness and unexpected plot twists that plunge Jesper into even more trouble than before.

Admittedly, this is one of those books for kids that really is pitched to be enjoyed most by kids in the target age range, rather than one that adults will get a lot out of too.  Having said that, it does have all the makings of an engaging, fun, funny and accessible entry point into the early chapter book format and as such, would be perfect for reluctant readers, or as a “just for the fun of it” classroom read-aloud.

You can visit Jesper and find out more about this book and the next in the series at http://www.jesperjinx.co.uk

Until next time,

Bruce (and the club!)

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Time Square: The Shift…A Maniacal Book Club Review…


manical book club buttonGood morning all! Today I have a duet of pleasures for you – a new release review and the inaugral review selection of the Maniacal Book Club (pictured!).  What is this book club and from whence has it sprung, I hear you question.  Well, since I am not the only being on the shelf and my opinion is but one of many, I decided that I should involve some of the other shelf-dwellers in having their say on our latest reads.  You will meet the others shortly.

Let us regain our focus however, and turn back to the topic of today’s book club discussion, which is the new release middle grade historical time slip adventure Time Square: The Shift, by S. W. Lothian.  This is the first in a new series by the Australian (double points!) author and I was lucky enough to receive an advance digital copy from the author for review.  Thanks!

Time Square: The Shift follows the fate of Dr Rex Hudson as he attempts to uncover the ancient secrets of a …well, secret…obelisk hidden in the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. The year is 1930 and Dr Hudson cannot resist the call of the mysterious, trekking into the mountains with his trusty guides and assistant in the hope of finding fame and fortune.  After bringing the mysterious obelisk home and storing it in his basement (for research purposes, you understand), he and his two children accidentally activate the obelisk’s time portal-inducing powers and are deposited in Time Square, the centre of all time.  As the family are introduced to the comings and goings and wheres and whyfors of Time Square, they are informed that they have unwittingly caused a breach that could mean the end of time itself.  Cue rollicking adventure as the Hudson family attempts to put things right, before time runs out. For good.


So now I call to order this, the first meeting of the Maniacal Book Club, to share with you some thoughts on Time Square: The Shift. Introducing…..

maniacal book club guru dave

Guru Dave (Repository of most Gargoylish Wisdom)

Flesh brothers and sisters, I have spent long hours in meditation over this tome and I pronounce it most worthy for those who enjoy becoming lost in the swirling mists of time.  Without time we would all look a lot younger, but we would also be late for many pressing appointments..and for the Hudson family in this book, the importance of time weighed heavily on their minds in their decision to risk themselves to save time and its associated conveniences.

This book receives my blessing for readers who have passed eight or more years in the standard measurement of Earth time.

maniacal book club toothless

Toothless (Dragon, emerged from a middle grade storybook to sit on the shelf)

First of all, this book needed more dragons.  No dragons at all here. Shame really. Maybe there’ll be some in the next book.
Anyway, there’s lots of action in this book and some people end up being whooshed around in the air and there’s even some bad guys.  I think it’s a book that boys will like because of the action.  It’s pretty funny too. There are poo-throwing monkeys in the first chapter. No dragons though.

maniacal book club marthaMad Martha

I have composed a poem to convey my thoughts about Time Square: The Shift.  It runs thusly:

If  you’re a thrill seeker, take heed and take care,

should you pass by an ob’lisk, oh trekker, beware!

For some are well known to entrap and ensnare

and you could find yourself promptly dumped in Time Square.

But never you panic, young friend, don’t you fret,

There’s a chance you can make it safe out of this yet,

By working together, to aid and abet,

you can sort out that pesky old time statuette.

But in order to learn about time’s secret theories,

you’ll just have to read the rest of the series!

maniacal book club bruce

Bruce (The original and the best!)

I think this book will appeal greatly to kids who like the idea of time travel and  solving ancient mysteries.  The book is set in 1930, but the language use is definitely not accurate for the period.  While this took a bit of getting used to for me as an adult reader, I don’t think it will bother young readers unduly.  There’s a lot of funny one-liners and quirky characters to keep middle grade readers interested so I suspect that this will be a real hit with the age group, and the content is a refreshing chance from the currently popular crop of middle grade books set in contemporary times, and limited to the school/home setting.

Time Square: The Shift is due for release on the 9th of April.

If you’d like to find out more about the book or the author or the author’s other works, have a look at his blog here.  I should probably also mention that this would fit neatly into category eight of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – a book with wordplay in the title (Time Square/Times Square – it’s marginal but it’ll do!).  Click on the pic below for more info about the challenge and to sign up!


Until next time, intrepid explorers!

Bruce (and the rest of the club)

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