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.

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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

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.

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

Until next time,

Bruce (and the gang!)

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ARC Read-it-if Review: Man Made Boy…

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Afternoon all! Today’s offering is one that, since seeing the fantastic cover art, I had been excitedly anticipating…and then I managed to score an ARC review copy from Allen & Unwin Teen in return for an honest review.  Serendipitous, no? So our thanks to the publishers for making my anticipatory wonderings a reality.

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron is a coming of age tale with a twist – the twist being that the creature doing the coming-of-age thing is the son of Frankenstein’s monster and his Bride.  The inventively named Boy; stitched-together beastie and thoroughly likeable protagonist, lives with a slew of other “mythical” creatures in a community hiding in plain sight from human society in the form of a theatre group.  Boy also happens to be something of a tech wizard, and after developing a new form of artificial intelligence, accidentally sets in motion events that have the potential to reach cataclysmic proportions for all involved.  Simultaneous to this concerning development, Boy attempts to leave the theatre to make his own way in the world – hence the coming-of-age themes mentioned earlier.

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Read it if:

* you’re a sucker for a good YA/sci fi/modern mythology/coming-of-age/paranormal romance crossover novel

* you’ve ever had stitches (or indeed bolts) in a prominent place, and felt that this may have inhibited your ability to blend seamlessly into polite society

* you are, or have ever entertained the dream of becoming, a mad scientist who creates a sentient, yet fundamentally flawed, creature for your own entertainment and/or personal gain

* you can overlook some minor problems with pacing and plot provided that there is at least one character with a rhyming name.  (…Paging Shaun the Faun…your presence is required…)

As I mentioned, I had really high hopes for this book based on the cover art alone.  Yes, I am that judgemental.  Did this book live up to those expectations? Sort of.

There is much to like in Skovron’s work here.  The characters, although lifted from historical mythical tales and classic literature, are given an overhaul to suit the modern urban setting while retaining their authentic character.  The two (or should that be three?) main teen characters, Boy and Claire/Sophie Hyde/Jekyll, are relatable, charming and flawed in ways that are believable, without being stereotypical.  The world building, in regards to the hidden monster communities, is well done and provides some good launching points to drive the plot forward.

The main problem I have with the book is the technology plotline revolving around the artificial intelligence program that Boy creates and sends out into the world.  I can’t say too much here, as I think it would be too spoilerish, but for me, the parts of the book in which this plotline featured seemed forced and out of place.  I had the overwhelming feeling that Skovron had actually got all the ingredients for TWO great novels – one revolving around a young monster finding his feet in the world, and another, that had no fantasy elements but explored the themes of artifical intelligence and the role and pace of technology in society in a psychological thriller-type story.

Having said that, while the technology aspect of the plot didn’t really work for me, it didn’t diminish the overall appeal of the book to the point where I had to put it down.  For my money, if Skovron can maintain my interest for 300 + pages despite a plotline that grated on every stony, critical and pedantic nerve in my body, I’ll be very interested to see what he can come up with next.  Overall, I think this book will have great appeal to its target audience of older teens for its likeable characters and modern twist on some old favourites.

For those who are faint of heart, let me also flag a warning for language, grand-theft-auto style gratuitous violence and humour related to alien-implemented anal probes.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Haiku Review: Never the Bride…

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Good evening sweeties, it is Mad Martha with you once again.  I am very excited about today’s Haiku Review because it centres around a book which centres around a town which is close to my heart.  Today’s review reflects on the work of Paul Magrs, with the opener to his Brenda and Effie series, Never the Bride.  Now, I will admit that I have had an up-and-down relationship with Mr Magrs….it started off quite down until I discovered he wrote for Doctor Who – the television program, not the actual Time Lord – after which he went up in my estimation quite significantly.  Having discovered the Brenda and Effie series, I have to say Mr Magrs and I will probably continue to develop our comraderie for a long time to come.

Never the Bride is a supernatural comic detective story about friendship and enjoying one’s twilight years and working against the demons of hell.  It’s easy pace and immediately likeable main character (who happens to be the Bride of Frankenstein) draw you in and before you know it you are engrossed in the sedately paced adventures of two old spinsters and the various nefarious beings residing in their locale.  The first thing that drew me to this one is the fact that it is set in Whitby – a town that I have visited in my numerous travels.

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Here I am enjoying the sea breeze on the pier (and avoiding the enormous seagulls – honestly, why are they so large?), availing myself of the services of the local laundrette (which is actually mentioned in the story – my little brush with fame!) and enjoying the view from my B&B window….was it close to the B&B that Brenda herself runs? I like to think so!

But on to the Haiku!

never the bride

Ageing She-monster

hunts down hell-spawn in Whitby.

Nothing could go wrong!

So there you have it. For me, Paul Magrs was an acquired taste, but if you enjoy dark comedy and stories that are slightly off-kilter, you may well enjoy his many works.

Toodle-ooooo!

Mad Martha