Review of This Monstrous Thing- Stellar Re-working of Frankenstein

ThisMonstrousThingThis Monstrous Thing
By: Mackenzi Lee
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

The Story:
This Monstrous Thing was everything I wanted in a Frankenstein retelling/reworking. The story was evenly paced and pulled enough from history that it felt plausible. Lee took the classic storyline and added a mechanical element (dare I say steampunk?) and the complexities of a sibling relationship.

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The setting was so eerie and vivid it was easy to visualize the time period as well as the setting. I loved all the little details that were included in the descriptions. I have never honestly considered the idea of bringing someone back to life with mechanics though the way Lee presented it along with medical know how it all seemed incredibly realistic.

In this world those that have had mechanical elements added to themselves are looked down upon and considered nearly evil and a stain on God’s creation. The vast societal gap between this created between characters was incredibly interesting and beautifully executed.

Lee eloquently questioned what makes someone human and how much does our own medical tinkering impact this. I loved the questions the characters dealt with as well as how much it led me to consider things on my own as I read. Even with such deep questions being asked and addressed this story moved at a fast pace and there were some very tense action sequences. I don’t think anyone will have trouble becoming entranced with the story-line.

The Characters:
Where this book really shone for me was with the main character, Alasdair. I loved how he suffered from guilt, self loathing yet ambition. He wrestled with his own decisions and choices and questioned himself. I found his character to be so incredibly complex.

His relationships with all of those around him were also a major draw for me, especially with him and his brother. I found the love between the brothers realistic as well as touching. Though these two love one another they aren’t free of sibling rivalry or a touch of jealousy.

I really loved reading about Alasdair’s self discovery and growth. He changed a good amount from the beginning of the novel to the end. I felt that this gradual growth was really one of the best aspects of the novel.

Lee didn’t disappoint with her secondary characters either. They were all well executed, detailed and unique. I felt that she gave them all depth and complexity.

Final Thoughts:
What an impressive book This Monstrous Thing was! Not only were the characters well developed but Lee’s grasp of history and her ability to provide a detailed and rich setting provided a wonderful reading experience. I’d highly recommend this one to anyone with an interest in historical fiction.

Review- Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

WoEaSWalk on Earth a Stranger
By: Rae Carson
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

The Story:
I really didn’t know what to expect from this book when I requested it. I admit, I saw that it was by Rae Carson and requested it without reading the summary. I was so impressed with the research, captivating story telling and characters in this novel.

The pacing was very slow and though the characters travel a great distance it didn’t seem that a lot happened. We follow the story through Lee’s point of view on her journey to California. The story begins in Georgia and we really get a feel for the setting and time period. I found myself intrigued by Leah (she changes the spelling when she pretends to be a boy to Lee). Her ability to sense gold seemed like such a hindrance to me. I loved that Carson approached practical elements…such as if you can sense gold you still can’t cash it all in because that would cause suspicion.

Once Leah dressed as a boy and hit the trail I was so reminded of the old 80’s game my generation played in school, The Oregon Trail. This game was IMPOSSIBLE and I died of dysentery every time I attempted to play.

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Carson represented the hardships of traveling by wagon over miles of land so beautifully. I was so impressed with how she handled the small aspects of life (our main characters gets her period!) I loved seeing how things were handled and I felt that Carson did one of the best jobs I’ve read representing a girl character hiding as a boy.

As I said the pacing was slow and the action sequences scarce but I felt completely captivated and I read this book in a short number of days. Where the story left the reader also has me really ready for the next book…not a cliffhanger all that much but it’s the type of ending where you flip the page expecting the next chapter and not the end of the book.

The Characters:
Wow, Carson did such an excellent job creating a cast of characters that were unique, well rounded and so realistic. I loved Leah/Lee and felt she was incredibly easy to root for and connect to. I wanted for her to succeed and I was worried for her multiple times throughout the story. Her best friend, Jefferson, was so likeable though I could use a bit more focus on him in the next novel.

I became attached to the people Lee traveled with on the trail to California and I was as engaged with their stories as I was with Lee’s. I was very impressed with the depth Carson gave the secondary cast of characters.

You might be wondering if there was a romance? Not really though there will most likely be one as the series progresses. I was very much behind a couple though and I’m hoping my ship will sail (or there will be tears).

Final Thoughts:
I was very impressed with how beautiful and captivating Walk on Earth a Stranger was. Although the pacing was slow the story was easily able to keep my interest and I’m incredibly eager for the next book. I must know what happens next in Lee’s life!

Review of Beastly Bones by Will Ritter

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By: Will Ritter
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.”

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

My Thoughts:
I am such a fan of the character of Jackaby and Will Ritter’s writing in general. Beastly Bones was a strong sequel to Jackaby and I really could read as many adventures between Jackaby and Abigail as Ritter is able to create. I adore this duo and felt that they were just as strong in this book as in the first. We even get introduced to a few new characters that I found easy to love.

Ritter has an ability to create a quirky, fun story and still keep it from veering into corny. Some of the topics approached (an assistant turned into a duck, shape-shifting kittens, etc) could easily become silly but for me, they don’t. I adore the complexity he has created in Jackaby especially. I want to find out more about him and I love that in each book we get a touch of his back-story.

Abigail was just as easy to root for and once again she’s a great narrator. I loved seeing her more in her element in this story since she gets to go back to her roots and investigate a mystery surrounding dinosaur bones. I was thrilled to see Charlie back too! Again I loved the interactions between him and Abigail (though I think they were a tad less in this book).

Though the main story line was a tad simplistic in some ways (I could connect the dots a tiny bit faster than the characters in some instances)the way everything pulled together and especially more info into Jenny’s past really made this novel intriguing. I found it to be fast paced and a very quick read.

The new characters- a reporter, master trapper and archeologists were well developed and each unique in their personalities and dialog. I loved that the archeologists had a rivalry going on which added some rather humorous parts. One of the new character, Hank Hudson the master trapper, had a touch of a Harry Potter feel. I could totally see Hagrid in Hank because of the love of incredible beasts and their larger than life personalities. Though I saw a resemblance it still felt fun and original and not at all a copy. For me, these books give a lovely tip of the hat to some many things I adore (Sherlock, Doctor Who now a bit of Harry Potter). I’m so sold!

Final Thoughts:
I could go on and on about how entertaining, quirky, and addicting these books are to me. I really adore this series and will continue to read each and every book Will Ritter writes.

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