Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Madman’s Daughter
Megan Shepard

Balzer + Bray
Released January 29, 2013
420 pages
YA / Science Fiction / Classic Retelling

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Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

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.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.

I am a bad sci-fi fan. As much as I love science fiction, I’ve never gone back and read all the classics that have inspired most of the genre fiction out there. While I have The Time Machine and War of the Worlds under my belt, The Island of Dr. Moreau is one Wells classic I just haven’t read yet. I’ve had it on my list for a long time and I know the general plot of it, but I went in to The Madman’s Daughter without having any preconceived ideas of what the plot should consist of, which was good, I guess.

Juliet has fallen from her high life of being the daughter of one of London’s most prestigious citizens to becoming a maid in the university where her father once taught. She’s an orphan doing the best to provide for herself after her father was banished from London for doing experimenting with unnatural science and her mother died from an illness. When she comes across her father’s former assistant, she learns he is still alive and insists on going with him back to the mysterious island where her father has set up his new scientific research compound.

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Review: Scary School by Derek the Ghost & Scott M. Fischer

Scary School
by Derek the Ghost
art from Scott M. Fischer

HarperCollins (2011)
237 pages
Middle Grade / Monsters / Humor

Purchase it from Amazon

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a middle grade book and I’m so glad that Scary School was my re-introduction into this type of fiction. It was silly, funny and brought back wonderful memories of the interconnected story collections I used to love in elementary school. Delightful is not a word I often use to describe books, but it’s the main word that comes to mind. This book is delightful.

There’s not a straight line plot in Scary School. Each chapter is about a particular character – either a student or faculty member – and something unusual they go through that could only ever happen at a school run by monsters with a student body that’s partly human. The narrator is Derek the Ghost, a child who died in an unfortunate chemistry fire and is now having to haunt the school. It starts with a new human kid (conveniently named Charles Nukid) starting at Scary School and immediately getting sent to detention for wearing the school uniform. Detention happens to be run by a T-Rex in a dress and little hat. At this point I realized as a reader that this wasn't like most of the books I've been reading lately.

Mild plot spoilers ahead (examples of crazy mostly)

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Author Tour Review: Monsters of LA by Lisa Morton

Welcome to the second day of WFTM's stop on the Pump Up Your Book tour of Lisa Morton's Monsters of LA.  Yesterday Ms. Morton shared her thoughts on zombies (and the obvious lack of proper robots) in her short story collection.  Today you get to hear my thoughts on not just the zombies, but the vampires, the mummies, the lizard people and all the other monsters roaming the streets of Morton's Los Angeles.  

To learn more about Lisa Morton, check out her webiste here.  I would like to thank her and PUYB tours for having us as hosts of the tour.

* Note: there is about 30 pages of “behind the scenes” supplementary material at the end of the book, giving background for each of the stories.  At the time of this review, I had not read this background material due to a sudden and unexpected opportunity to meet one of my favorite bands last night.  I hope Ms. Morton understands that I look forward to reading more of her thought process and am sorry I was unable to include it in this review.

 

Monsters of LA
Lisa Morton

Bad Moon Books (2011)
320 pages
Short Stories / Monsters / Fantasy

Purchase it from the Publisher here 

I’ve never been a fan of scary movies.  I have nightmares too easily and my anxiety levels are generally at a pretty high state all on their own.  I know this sounds really weird considering my favorite television show is Supernatural, which is all about monsters and creepy things, but I also watch parts of that show with my hands covering my eyes asking Fernando to tell me when the gross stuff is over.  I like monsters.  They’re fun.  I especially like them outside their usual settings and that’s what Lisa Morton does very well in Monsters of LA.

This book was nothing like I was expecting.  I thought it was going to be a sort of silly story that happened to have characters that duplicated as classic monsters all sort of tangled together in one large story verging on the convoluted.  Monsters of LA is nothing like that.  For one thing it’s a collection of short stories (and one longer novella) taking place in the same world with subtle interconnectedness.  Some secondary characters show up in multiple stories, particularly a professor of folklore and legend, while other stories mention occurrences from previous stories that would have made the news.  Despite the monster-ness of it all, the stories are believable and very grounded in reality of the strange world we live in.

I can buy people at the La Brea tar pits thinking that a monster crawling out of the ooze is part of a publicity stunt for a movie until he starts ripping people apart.  Or a story of a veteran soldier who was pieced back together into a form of Frankenstein’s monster only to find himself living despondently on the streets.  Some of the stories were even a little heartbreaking, like “The Hunchback”, which involved a bullied high school student attempting to turn The Hunchback of Norte Dame into a musical, and “The Invisible Woman” that might have felt just a little too familiar.  And I’ve never wanted to hit a “ghost hunter” in the face more than in “The Haunted House” or give a house a hug for that matter.  Can you give hugs to houses?

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Guest Post: Lisa Morton, author of Monsters of LA

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book, we here at Working for the Mandroid are happy to host Bram Stoker Award winning author Lisa Morton for the next two days on her blog tour for Monsters of LA, a crazy story collection about all your favorite classic monsters living in... well, LA.  Morton puts these classic movie monsters in real-life situations that almost makes me think that there could be real Draculas, Werewolves and Mummies roaming around the City of Angels.  Tomorrow I'll be reviewing it, but if you're looking for a preview, let me just say I've had so much fun reading this book.

Here's the official GoodReads synopsis:

In these pages you'll find the dark stars you grew up watching: Frankenstein, Dracula, Mr. Hyde, the Phantom, the Hunchback...all the silent ones and the first to find their voices are here, and they're even presented in roughly the order in which they first appeared on a silver screen. The Haunted House of the '30s gives way to the Werewolf of the '40s, the Monsters of L.A. Creature of the '50s, and so on, all the way up to our favorite modern boogeyman, the Zombie.

In some of these stories, you'll find an earthly incarnation of a famous namesake: Frankenstein is a patched-together, homeless vet, the Invisible Woman is so ordinary you'd never see her; but some of these familiar friends - Dracula, the Devil, or those seriously creepy Clowns - will be instantly recognizable.

Ugh, clowns are seriously creepy.  And now that you know a bit about Monsters of LA, I leave it to Lisa.

 

Hello Leslie and Fernando! I think we’ve got some things in common…like a love of books and robots. And cupcakes. And I think I’ve worked for a mandroid or two in my time…

I’m sorry to say there are no mandroids in my short story collection Monsters of L.A., but there are things called “manobots”. The premise behind the book was: Twenty stories, some of which are interconnected, that take classic movie monsters and plunk them down into contemporary Los Angeles (my hometown). You’ll find Frankenstein here (although he’s now a patched-together homeless vet), Dracula (an arrogant celebrity), Dr. Jekyll (an expert in gender reassignment), the Devil (who lives in a Southern California amusement park), Urban Legends (lizard people beneath the downtown L.A. Public library) Killer Clowns (yes – killer clowns)…and of course our favorite modern monster, the zombie.

I love zombies. I still think George A. Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead is the most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen. I saw it as an impressionable teen, and it left a bloody mark on my consciousness. I’ve already written a lot of zombie stories. A quick look at my list of credits will reveal appearances in anthologies with titles like Mondo ZombieThe Dead That WalkZombie: Encounters With the Hungry DeadThe Living Dead, and – the most awesome title ever – The Mammoth Book of Zombie Apocalypse. However, as much as I love the stomping, chomping variety of zombie, when it came time to create a zombie story for Monsters of L.A., I knew I wanted to have a little fun with the stereotype.

My zombies are introduced in “The Mad Scientist”, which takes SoCal’s biotech industry and extends it into the far reaches of nanotechnology, as a scientist experiments for the first time with using tiny robots – nanobots – to heal someone who has been involved in a severe car crash. By the time of the last story in the book – “The Zombie” – the world has succumbed to hordes of “manobots”, humans controlled entirely by self-replicating nanobots with a rather sinister agenda. This concept allowed me to have a little fun with the traditional zombie and its attributes; I tried to find new ways to deal with everything from the shuffling walk to cannibalism. And because every good zombie holocaust tale must involve human survivors, I also wanted to do something fresh with that aspect (here’s a hint: the story is set in Beverly Hills). It remains to you, the readers, to tell me if I succeeded or not.

Even if you don’t like zombies, there are wolfmen, catwomen, haunted houses, phantoms, creatures, aliens and more all on display here, wandering locales as diverse as the Los Angeles County Arboretum to the La Brea Tar Pits to the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. If enough people like Monsters of L.A., maybe I’ll do a second collection…and I promise I’ll work in some robots. 

 

Thank you, Lisa, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk zombies with us.  Yours are both horrifying and terrifically different.  Though you're right, the book was missing one thing - ROBOTS! The world needs more robots!

To learn more about Lisa and her story collection, Monsters of LA, visit her website - http://www.lisamorton.com/.  Return tomorrow to hear all my detailed thoughts about Monsters of LA!

 

Waiting on Wednesday: Dear Creature by Jonathan Case

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Breaking the Spine and serves to showcase those books we’re not so patiently waiting to arrive!

After reading and listening to a lot of paranormal romance YA titles, I’m really ready for a change.  This week’s WOW still has a romancy element to it, but it would still be a change from anything I’ve recently read.

 

Dear Creature
Jonathan Case

Tor Books
Releases on October 11, 2011 
192 pages 
Buy it on Amazon here

Deep beneath the waves, a creature named Grue broods. He no longer wants to eat lusty beachgoers, no matter how their hormones call to him. A chorus of crabs urges him to reconsider. After all, people are delicious! But this monster has changed. Grue found Shakespeare's plays in cola bottles and, through them, a new heart. Now he yearns to join the world above.

When his first attempt ends... poorly, Grue searches for the person who cast the plays into the sea. What he finds is love in the arms of Giulietta—a woman trapped in her own world. When she and Grue meet, Giulietta believes her prayers are answered. But people have gone missing and Giulietta's nephew is the prime suspect. With his past catching up to him, Grue must decide if becoming a new man means ignoring the monster he was.

Rising from a brine of drive-in pulp and gentle poetry, Dear Creature is the love story you never imagined! 

1. It’s a comic book

2. It has a Shakespeare obsessed monster as the protagonist

3. There are talking people-eating crabs

4. It’s the weirdest concept for a romance tale I’ve ever heard

5. Did I mention the Shakespeare obsessed monster?

All I have to say is – yes, please.