Monthly Archives: October 2011

It’s a Mad, Mad World!

Have you ever wondered how mad scientists got to be mad? There’s Perecelcus, Dr. Strangelove, Dr. Faustus but the most famous mad scientist of all is Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Victor began life as a normal boy growing up in Victorian England with his twin, Konrad, two younger brothers and Elizabeth, a distant cousin taken in when her parents died. Konrad, Victor and Elizabeth are inseparable. One afternoon, completely by accident, they discover a secret passageway that lead to a mysterious and unused library. The books that are housed there none of the children have ever seen or heard of before and they wonder why the library was hidden away. Dr. Frankenstein, Sr. finds out about the discovery and forbids them from ever using the books again. The are all about the occult and alchemy, philosophies that have gotten people killed. The books are forgotten until the day that Konrad becomes desperately ill and none of the doctors seem to know what is wrong or how to treat him. Victor becomes obsessed with a tantalizing item he saw in one of the books. Something called “the elixir of life”. He makes several forays into the library to learn more but his search is cut short when the instructions for the elixir are in a language he does not recognize. It isn’t long before the cold trail heats up again and he stumbles upon Polidori, who seems to want to help. Elizabeth, Victor and friend Henry embark on a dangerous quest to gather all of the ingredients but is Polidori telling the everything? What are his true motives? What must Victor sacrifice to save his brother?

What an exciting and unique story! I’ve never felt much sympathy or empathy for Dr. Frankenstein. He was always just creepy. Oppel, however, casts him is a completely different light. He boy with feelings, passions, and foibles. The characters are interesting and the development of the conflict, while predictable, is scintillating. It’s also interesting the differences between the identical twins. One tends to assume that they are as similar in personality as they are in looks but Konrad and Victor definitely prove that assumption wrong. It’s a great historical novel but Oppel keeps the pages turning with taut suspense and thrilling action. It is obviously the start of a series and the ending leaves you knowing that there is much more to come.

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You’ve never seen Jack London like this!!!

The Secret Journeys of Jack London

Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon have taken the adventurer Jack London’s life to a whole different plane!  We know much about his life and times but this book explores his youth.  Jack is 17-years-old as he boards a vessel with his elderly and ailing brother-in-law.  The two are heading for Alaska in search of all mighty GOLD!!!  Upon arrival, the two men stand at the foot of the Chilkoot Trail.  Shephard blanches, realizing that this trail, alone, will kill him.  Jack looks at it filled with awe and excitement.  Shephard turns back, leaving Jack to his adventure.  At once, Jack is a boy embarking on his first big adventure and a wizened man looking at the world with the knowledge that life isn’t always easy and is often filled with misfortune.  The  danger he finds is like nothing he could have imagined.  He is kidnapped by murderous, greedy men and forced to mine for gold.  He is attacked and nearly killed by a mysterious creature that feeds on humans. His savior ends up being another kind of captor from whom he must escape to survive.  Amidst all these pitfalls and snares, Jack holds onto his spirit and strength and they are the only things that will get him through the worse days in The Wild!

Christopher Golden is a prolific writer of adult and young adult fiction.  He writes in just about every genre…fantasy, historical fiction, murder mysteries.  His imagination is astounding and his research thorough, interesting and often frightening.  Tim Lebbon describes himself on his web site as a horror and dark fantasy author.  Put these two together to write a book and you have some wacked out stuff!  Just imagine all of the legends that swirl around the snows of Alaska, brought there by the many and varied peoples seeking adventure and gold.  Now, imagine them all coming to life in the pages of this book about one of the greatest adventurers of all time!  If you’re a fan of historical fiction, horror, adventure or Jack London, this is a must read!!!  And stay tuned…there’s more about Jack to come!

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Really Great Chick Lit

Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer

Do you really ever know your friends?  Do they really know you?  Does anyone really care?  Brooke and Kathryn have only one thing in common…opera and the desire to sing sing it.  Otherwise, they are polar opposites.  Brooke is the daughter of a famous singer and an actor who is alone most of the time, now that her older twin brothers are off at university.  Those two older brothers gifted her with popularity beyond belief; popularity = power in high school.  Kathryn is a shy but very beautiful girl whose best friend is Matt, a slightly geeky boy she’s known her whole life.  When the two girls finally meet, each feels a very strong connection with the other.  Friendship with Brooke brings things into Kathryn’s life she’s never experienced before; Parties, lots of friends, handsome boys…it’s almost overwhelming.  Kathryn introduces Brooke to what a functional, happy family looks like.  Soon, however, a rivalry begins between them.  Brooke’s friends accept Kathryn just a little too quickly.  Boys pay attention to Kathryn’s natural and unassuming beauty.  The Honors Choir director gives Kathryn a solo.  One night at a party, things explode.  With one punch, their friendship is destroyed and the true rivalry begins.

Oh my, what an amazing book!  Normally, I’m not all that into girly books (yes, I am aware that I am a girl and a girly one, at that), but this one goes far beyond your average Chick Lit.  These two girls are complicated.  Their families, personalities, and motivations are as varied as the opinions others have about them.  Their absolute love of music, particularly opera, just adds another texture to the tale.  Arias aside, teenagers will identify with their passion for their craft and their desire to fit in (Kathryn) or be loved (Brooke).  Wealer expertly builds the tension so gradually that you almost don’t realized that you are being pushed onward to the heart-wrenching climax and the sweet, believable resolution.  Each chapter begins with a musical term and definition that lets you know, just in case you missed it, what part of the story you are about to read.  Fans of contemporary fiction and/or Chick lit, either teen or adult, should definitely check this one out!!!

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