The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

 

In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

 

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Although I’ve never read H.G Wells’ The Island of Dr.Moreau, the book jacket synopsis of a Gothic thriller appealed to me. With elements of suspense, action, mystery and romance, I was immediately immersed in the story. The atmosphere and setting of a remote jungle island only added to the creep factor. Juliet’s father, the mad scientist, Dr.Moreau, makes for a perfect villain. I found it super easy to hate him (especially for his misogynistic views). His disturbing creature creations were so vividly described, that I fear I will come across them again in nightmares.

In terms of pacing, the plot does have some slower periods in the middle, which consists of walking/running through the forest, but for the most part, it held my attention. However, I could have done without Juliet’s love triangle, and her back and forth indecisive thoughts between Montgomery and Edward. Shepherd included a couple of predictable twists, but the last one caught me completely off guard. The action ramped up in the end…. eventually leading to the ultimate betrayal.  Personally, I don’t see the need for a sequel, but there is one in the works (expected publication January 2014). Recommended to those that like dark, twisted, Gothic reads.

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Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1) by Sarah Rees Brennan

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met…a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

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For some reason, I didn’t connect with this book.  There’s nothing that I disliked about it, it’s just nothing really stood out to me. I read it last week, and already it’s a little forgettable.  That being said, I know tons of readers that would completely disagree with me so I urge you to give it a shot!

Here’s what I did like:

-the character of Kami. She had all the personality traits that I like: smart, brave, vulnerable and strong.  For example, in reference to her relationships-“She did not want to drown in what was between them and lose control, or lose who she was (p.323)”

-pacing and plot- keeps readers guessing. Lots of action/suspense.

-dark atmosphere

-well developed secondary characters

-interesting silhouette cover art

-inclusion of girl friendships

-Book set up. I loved the table of contents at the beginning, highlighting the parts/chapters.  The novel is divided into six parts, and includes quotes by Robert Frost, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and others.  The quotes helped to set up the tone of the section.

Personally, I like my books to have some sort of resolution at the end. I think readers that were emotionally invested will be very unsatisfied and perhaps a little angry with the ending provided.  Readers will have to wait for the sequel ‘Untold’ to get the conclusion they crave.

Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

In this twist on Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic short story, a wealthy teenaged girl who can afford a special mask to protect her from the plague that decimated humanity in the mid-1800s, falls in love, becomes caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow an oppressive government, and faces the threat of a new plague. –From Novelist

“….The book’s characters are not the only ones manipulated here. Readers will twist and turn, puzzling out hero from villain, only to be left dangling and anticipating the sequel”— Booklist

I’ve never read Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, but the premise of a book based on the dark gothic short story really appealed to me.  I’m not really sure why I’ve been reading so many books on death and disease lately, but I just keep picking them up. The beautiful cover didn’t hurt either!

Writing this review is difficult. There were some aspects I didn’t enjoy: the shallow self-medicating characters, the slow moving beginning, and the love triangle. On the flip side, I liked the steampunk elements, storyline surprises, and vivid descriptions. I really thought the concept of the masks was the best part as it adds a unique level of creepiness to this world overrun with plague and death.  However, for some reason I kept picturing the V for Vendetta mask.  How did you imagine the masks?

The difference between the human experience for the wealthy and those living in poverty was unsettling.  I couldn’t imagine living in the crumbling dying lower city, while watching careless, glamorous, fashionable teens, behave scandalously. Since the poor cannot afford the masks, the masks come to symbolize the divide between the wealthy and poor. The underlying theme of science vs. religion also played an important part too.

With the amount of drugs, sexual content, violence and horrific death scenes, I would recommend this book to an older YA crowd.  Check out this book if you’re into: dystopia, steampunk, and death & disease (like me apparently).

Look for Dance of the Red Death (book #2) to be released Spring 2013.

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