When I was a wee lass, I was helping out at a garage sale and was told that I could choose one book as my reward. I was already deeply in love with AlWhen I was a wee lass, I was helping out at a garage sale and was told that I could choose one book as my reward. I was already deeply in love with Alanna: The First Adventure, which sparked an obsession with all things medieval. Maybe that's why I picked this out, despite its absolutely hideous cover and incredibly boring title. It has remained possibly the best book I've ever selected on a whim.
Maude Reed is feisty, clever, and stubborn. She wants to be a wool merchant, like her father, but instead is sent off to learn how to be a lady. She hates it. And Maude is not someone to just sit by and accept her fate. There's also a very subtle love story (which I adored) with Henry, a young man destined to be a knight.
The Maude Reed Tale is a hidden gem. Don't be put off by the cover or the title or its age. It's delightful, and is especially perfect for fans of young heroines who decide to defy societal expectations....more
I thought this was going to be a gothic thriller based off the deliciously creepy The Island of Dr. Moreau. Instead it was a typical supernatural loveI thought this was going to be a gothic thriller based off the deliciously creepy The Island of Dr. Moreau. Instead it was a typical supernatural love triangle with an indecisive heroine (Juliet Moreau) trying to choose between an educated, posh suitor (castaway Edward Prince) and the dangerous but kind poor servant (Dr. Moreau’s assistant, Montgomery).
I like the idea of The Madman’s Daughter – that Dr. Moreau has a daughter that he abandoned in London when his scandalous experiments became known and he fled to a tropical island. Juliet, penniless and orphaned, forced to work as a servant, still believes in her father’s innocence. And she doesn’t seem to be particularly angry at her father for abandoning his family after ruining them with scandal (also, it later turns out, (view spoiler)[Moreau fled with enough money to buy whatever he wants when he sends Montgomery on shopping expeditions to London, but didn’t leave his wife and child enough to survive on. Juliet never really thinks about this particular fact (hide spoiler)]). Juliet has a certain ruthlessness that she’s afraid of (does she share her father’s madness?) and an interest in the medical field. She also has a mysterious ailment that requires her to daily inject a serum – and a scar up her spine. Are these the result of her father saving her life as an infant from birth defects? Or was she just another of his experiments? Juliet re-encounters Montgomery, her family’s former servant and her father’s assistant, and realizes her father is still alive. Her reunion with her father on his solitary island filled with beastly “natives” is nothing like she imagined…
This book was a very loooooong - 400-something pages. At least half of that was the heroine’s dithering. She loves Montgomery! No, Edward! No, Montgomery! No, Edward! She’s jealous of servant girl Alice because Montgomery is kind to her! Does Montgomery love Alice? But, wait, it doesn’t matter, because she loves Edward! But Montgomery smiled at Alice! Seriously, every few pages she would change her mind. Sometimes, Montgomery was too dangerous and bad – he did inhumane experiments, just like her father! But sometimes he didn’t understand her darkness – only Edward, on the run from some mysterious secret in England, could relate to her – Montgomery was too kind and good. What? Girl, maybe your madness is that you’re a romantic schizo.
The horror and thriller aspect of this was so overshadowed by the inspid romance that I found it neither horrific nor thrilling, despite the deaths caused by a mysterious monster, the reverting of the “islanders” to their animal natures and the madness of Doctor Moreau. Truly, The Island of Dr. Moreau is a far, far spookier book than this one.
I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book either way, but comparing this to the novel it is based one just makes it even more frustrating. The Island of Doctor Moreau is a delicious creep-fest filled with deep ideas about the nature of man (v. beast) and when the pursuit of science and knowledge crosses the line. H.G. Wells was dealing with a lot of interesting themes, while Shepherd seems to be dealing with nothing more than a limp romance and a cartoonish villain. Wells’ Doctor Moreau is an educated man of science – cold and uncompromising but genteel, who cares more about knowledge and his work than he does about people or his creations. He has all the arrogance of a white colonial European with no regard for those he considers beneath him. He is the ultimate mad scientist. Shepherd’s Doctor Moreau, meanwhile, is a one-dimensional asshole. It’s as if someone re-told Silence of the Lambs and made Hannibal Lecter a raging sociopath without his cultured air or cleverness. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I read this several years ago and it's still my favorite Sedgwick. It's exciting, it has a touch of the paranormal (Sasha can see when someone is goinI read this several years ago and it's still my favorite Sedgwick. It's exciting, it has a touch of the paranormal (Sasha can see when someone is going to die) and a hint of romance (Sasha/Jack - but, dammit Sedgwick, I wanted more of them)....more
An enjoyable middle grade action book aimed probably more at the boy crowd - so good for fans of Percy Jackson. This is an imagining of the childhoodAn enjoyable middle grade action book aimed probably more at the boy crowd - so good for fans of Percy Jackson. This is an imagining of the childhood of the future Dr. Frankenstein. In this he is a teenager of a wealthy (and ridiculously modern/liberal) Swiss family, stuck in a love triangle and beginning to be seduced by the practice of alchemy.
Victor Frakenstein loves his twin brother Konrad, but is also incredibly jealous of him. Victor decides he is in love with Elizabeth - a girl he and Konrad grew up with - most likely because Konrad is in love with her. Victor has a huge complex about his brother being "better" than him, and Elizabeth is just one more toy that Konrad has that Victor is jealous of. When Konrad falls mysteriously ill (with...leukemia? maybe?), Victor puts his faith in alchemy to save him. The lengths Victor will go to save his brother and the dark path this puts him on is interesting.
I had been looking forward to this book because the plot sounded fun. But when I picked it up I was a littThis is formulaic and fluffy and I love it.
I had been looking forward to this book because the plot sounded fun. But when I picked it up I was a little worried - it's a very short 250-odd pages and in height it's about ½ the size of regular books. Had I somehow picked up a middle grade read? Nope - it's a bit on the light side but it is very much a regular YA.
This is pretty much a knock-off of Pride and Prejudice – the main character (Althea Crawley) is introduced to two recently-arrived eligible bachelors – the pleasant, gentle one (Lord Boring) and the arrogant, stiff one (Mr. Fredericks) – at a ball wherein the stiff one is immensely rude to her. Althea also has relatives who embarrass her (in this case, it’s her two annoying stepsisters). Guess which guy she ultimately falls in love with?
I loved the Pride and Prejudice-esque plot in Shades of Milk and Honey and I love it here. You know why? Because as long as it's not done horribly (which, oh man, it can be) it is cute and fun and it makes me nearly giddy with glee.
I loved Althea and her ability to stay within societal expectations (more or less) while still being feisty and witty. She appreciates decorum – hell, her dignity is the little that is left to her – but she is also clever and more than willing to use a bon mot to put someone in their place. And I loved Mr. Fredericks in all his inadvertent rudeness but his overall desire to do good. And I absolutely adored the verbal sparring between Althea and Fredericks. Fun, fun, fun.
Also, EXTRA POINTS for having Althea embrace her role of having to marry for money (her home - the castle - is literally falling apart, and the only way to save it and provide for her family is to marry rich). The normal YA heroine would whine about it for ages but Althea knows what is expected of her and is willing to do what is necessary to save her family and her servants. It’s refreshing. And that’s sad that it’s refreshing. Luckily for Althea, the man she falls in love with is also enormously wealthy.
This is one of the most fun reads I’ve had in a while and I relish it. ...more
I wish this was a regular novel instead of a verse novel.
This was a very interesting idea, about a young dyslexic girl (May) living on the Kansas praI wish this was a regular novel instead of a verse novel.
This was a very interesting idea, about a young dyslexic girl (May) living on the Kansas prairie who dreams of being a school teacher having to survive on her own. May gets shipped off to a neighbor (15 miles away!) to be the servant/companion to a pioneer’s new wife. The wife is a very young woman – maybe 18 or 19. She’s not a mail order bride, but she’s something close. She got shipped off to the prairie to marry her husband and she hates it and wants to go back East. Instead of trying to adapt to her new life and love the husband who obviously dotes on her and is doing everything in his power to make her happy, she sits around and mopes. She then runs away back home and her new husband chases after her – and never comes back.
May is abandoned in the cabin, with no one knowing she is alone and her father not set to pick her up until Christmas. May isn't sure if the wolves howling at her door or hunger from the quickly dwindling supplies will kill her first. May has to decide whether to stay put and face certain death or to try to walk back home in a Kansas winter.
There’s a lot of good stuff in this – May is an appealing young heroine and the whole drama of the unhappy new wife and the kind but unloved new husband has a lot more that could be done with it. The writing is good, but verse just seems so unnecessary. It would’ve worked equally well (or better!) in normal format. ...more
The thing that really got me was the dialect. It was distracting and grating as a screeching cat. Scarlet sounded like she came out of a Western: "heThe thing that really got me was the dialect. It was distracting and grating as a screeching cat. Scarlet sounded like she came out of a Western: "he were the youngest of us, too, bare sixteen, which didn't help none." (actual quote) She also uses "reckon" and "'bout" a lot. Seriously, she should be robbing trains on horseback, not hanging out in medieval Sherwood.
And no one else spoke in a dialect. I guess only Londoners sounded like cowboys at the time? And it's not like Cockney and Thieves Cant aren't real things that Gaughen could've used (I'm pretty sure neither of these existed in the 12th century, but hey, neither did people speak like Scarlet did in this book and all the other characters are speaking like modern Americans anyway).
Scarlet's dialect isn't bad per se, but it just doesn't fit in with the rest of the book at all. If it's a lowborn thing, then all the commoners should speak like that. If it's a London thing, then give the lowborn commoners their own dialect (because they shouldn't speak the same posh way as the nobles). And I guess if it's just a Scarlet thing, then don't make this first-person narration because it would be much, much less notable and distracting if a third-person was narrating in normal voice and only Scarlet's dialogue was in dialect. Dialect is notoriously tricky and hard to pull off, and while it's certainly ambitious to make a first-person narrator's speech pattern different, it didn't fit.
I liked all the characters (Will "the Girl" Scarlet, Robin "the Broody Outlaw" Hood, John "Lady Killer" Little & Much "That Other Guy - You Know, The One Without a Hand Or Personality" I-Don't-Even-Think-He-Gets-A-Second-Name) pretty well through the first half. They were flawed but had potential. Then they just got kind of wildly frustrating - mostly because their bad traits got magnified and they never evolved into the better people I expected them to.
Scarlet is the girl pretending to be a boy (but not very well - I'm pretty sure the entire village knows by the end that she's a girl). She's half in love with Robin and I want to say she's potentially in love with John, but not really ever. It's not much of a love triangle when one part of the triangle never has a shot and instead basically plays the role of creepy stalker. She was fine herself (other people have noted her extreme martyr personality, but that's a character flaw that's very interesting when explored correctly and is done alright here). The big problem was that (1) she's treated like the only Merry Man who can come up with a clever idea [I think she comes up with nearly every single plan by herself] BUT (2) all the other Merry Men treat her like a goddamn idiot every time there's a whiff of danger. It was rage-inducing. Her situation - how her comrades treat her - is essentially the argument people still use for why women shouldn't serve in combat: the guys put her safety before the mission every time (see: "[Rick] Santorum cited “the emotions of men.” He said there is the potential that men will not be focused on their combat mission but on what he calls a “natural instinct” to protect a woman.") This is not how you want to portray your action heroine - as an example of why women shouldn't be in combat. The boys are always “Get Scarlet out of here! Protect Scarlet! Scarlet, go hide yourself at Friar Tucks and I will kill you if I see you out of hiding!” It’s both patronizing and absurd and you really expect more of your heroes. And it makes Scarlet seem weak and on unequal ground with her supposed brothers-in-arms.
Both John and Robin went positively stupid over Scarlet. John could’ve been a charming rake, but instead he was just some kind of gropey lothario. He actually told Scarlet that he knew she wanted him to kiss her - when she had made it quite clear that she did not want to be romantically involved with him. Ugh. It seemed pretty clear he didn’t like Scarlet but what he did like about her was the excitement of a new type of prey to chase. And Robin went positively sulky every time he saw Scarlet within two feet of a potential rival. Because being on the receiving end of unwanted attention is playing with other men's hearts! Even when those men are being the Captain of Mixed Signals and prefer to show their attraction to you by being petty and moody. Seriously, Robin kept giving Scarlet the silent treatment and threatening to throw her out of the band whenever he felt too jealous of John (which anyone with half a brain would see was no competition). Gah. Much, since you were so useless, the very least you could’ve done was be the Humorous Voice of Reason in the group and shaken some sense into Robin and/or John.
BUT even giving all that, I can see Gaughen having the potential to write a book I really enjoy in the future. I liked the idea of Scarlet and Robin (how they were when petty jealousies weren't getting in the way), these two people who cast off their own lives and dedicated their new ones to helping others. Who never feel good enough or worthy, who are always atoning for crimes they think can never be forgiven. Who break the laws for justice and have their own code of honor. There were flickers of a good book in here, and I hope Gaughen can find it in her next one....more