Part 2: Review — “Her Dark Curiosity”

book cover for Her Dark Curiosity, featuring a girl in a long black dress overlooking the city of London

I honestly could not wait to read this sequel, since the previous book, “The Madman’s Daughter”, had fascinated me. Like the first book, this one left me in anticipation for the third book, with all of the plot twists and cliffhangers. I really liked the combination of mystery, science, and the Victorian Era. Juliet, as the daughter of a genius madman who was conducting controversial and inhuman experiments, is a very skilled person who seems to be following her father’s footsteps. The themes of science and humanity make this novel an extraordinary one. The Wolf of Whitechapel was a very nice addition to the novel, and something that I would have not expected to read. The escalating mystery of the violent serial killer and Juliet’s growing illness make you want to finish this book as soon as possible. In “The Madman’s Daughter” series, you can never predict the ending.

However, like I said in my other review of “The Madman’s Daughter”, I did not like the love triangle that seems to be a major theme in this story. It turns the reader away from the focus of the story and takes the action away from the series. In my opinion, Juliet should have settled for either Edward or Montgomery instead of doubting which one to choose.

If you enjoy romance novels, I would recommend this book. If you enjoy science fiction or mystery novels, I would recommend this book, too. Even though this is science fiction, thus impossible in real life, some of the procedures are so well-explained they seem to make sense. However, if you are very sensitive to graphic scenes of surgery and murder, I would not recommend this novel.

Though it is a young adult novel, some parts of the series do not comply with this. In addition, the plot might be a little complicated to understand for younger audiences. Therefore, I would rate this book 4.5/5. +14.

 

 

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Part 1: Summary — “Her Dark Curiosity”

book cover for Her Dark Curiosity, featuring a girl in a long black dress overlooking the city of London

“Her Dark Curiosity” is a young adult and science fiction novel by Megan Shepherd. Published by HarperCollinsPublishers, it is the second novel in “The Madman’s Daughter” series and is filled with breathtaking content that will keep you at the edge of your seat.

In the beginning of the book, Juliet Moreau has returned to her hometown, London, after running away from her father’s island. Montgomery had put her in a small boat by herself to send her away and save her from the burning island. Fast-forward a few months later and Juliet finds herself heartbroken and unsure about whether or not Montgomery — or anyone living on the island — survived.

Now alone, Juliet occupies a small attic as her workspace. Her disease is getting even worse, causing her symptoms like shaking hands, dizziness, shifting joints, and many more. Being the skilled daughter of London’s most gifted surgeon, she desperately tries to find a serum that will help her with her disease. She is running out of time, however, with the symptoms getting worse and worse with each passing day.

Finding a cure for her illness is not her only problem. After slicing Dr. Hastings’s wrist for attempting to abuse her, and being put in prison for it, Juliet is always afraid and paranoid. That changes when one of her father’s former colleagues, referred to as Professor Victor von Stein, one of the people who had turned her father in after the scandal, gets her out of prison. Guilty for having left Juliet and her now-dead mother, Evelyn, in the streets, the Professor takes her whole-heartedly into his home.

At this point, Juliet’s life is starting to look more promising. Her best friend, Lucy, might marry Scotland Yard inspector, John Newcastle. She doesn’t really like him, because she likes another mysterious gentleman, but Juliet thinks she will be in good hands for now. Everything seems to be going great. Well, almost great. That is, because of her progressing illness, and something else…

It all started when she went to the meat section of a store. She had become familiar with the butcher after buying animal organs in an attempt to recreate her father’s serum. The butcher tells her that a killer, nicknamed as the “Wolf of Whitechapel”, is roaming the streets of London, killing his victims in a violent way, tearing them apart “like an animal”. When she hears about this, Juliet has a sinking feeling. “That’s how Edward had killed his victims”.

She didn’t think much of it, at first. London is a big city, where many murders happen. Her views toward the recent murders change once she learns the victims’ names. First, Annie Brenton — a “friend” who had stolen a ring, the only thing Juliet had after her mother’s death. Then, Daniel Penderwick — the person who had taken the fortune of Juliet’s family after the scandal. Juliet found the third victim herself, after following traces of blood in the snow. It was the girl-thief who had tried to steal Juliet’s silver buttons not more than half an hour earlier. What was most remarkable, however, was that she found a flower dipped in a pool of blood. She later learns that this type of flower doesn’t grow in London.  This means that someone must have brought it from a tropical place. “Flowers dipped in blood. That is his mark.”

Juliet can’t help but notice a pattern- all the victims had wronged her in the past. That is what she thinks, until the Wolf of Whitechapel kills the Professor. Juliet is, once again, heartbroken; all the Professor had ever done was help her. The real question is what will Juliet do now? Is Edward the Wolf of Whitechapel? Will she find Montgomery? Will she find a cure for her illness, and will her life ever be normal?

Part 2: Review – “The Madman’s Daugther”

I have mixed feelings about this book. Personally, I found the story incredibly unique and interesting. The plot and vivid descriptions of “The Madman’s Daughter” definitely deserve a 5/5 rating. This novel has the perfect combination of the Victorian Era, along with crazy and complex science. While some people may find it hard to read through the procedures (which occupy a decent portion of this book), I thought they were fascinating without being disturbing. However, there was too much romance and drama, which took away from the story. The fact that Juliet was attracted to both Edward and Montgomery at the same time was cliché and boring. Still, there are unexpected turns that make it almost impossible to know anything before it is mentioned. It is also worth mentioning that, depite some cliché themes, the ending was so different than what I expected, which is always a great quality in a book.

I would recommend this book if you like romantic novels, science fiction, or just science in general. The focus on the scientific and medical field  is what makes this book amazingly fascinating. However, there are some graphic scenes during the surgeries, so if you do not feel comfortable with that, this book is not for you. I must also mention that the plot may be difficult to understand, mainly due to its complexity. I look forward to reading the other two books of “The Madman’s Daughter” series. 4.8/5. +12.

 

Part 1: Summary – “The Madman’s Daughter”

cover of the book The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Review by evant794

“The Madman’s Daughter” is a novel written by Megan Shepherd, and is the first out of the three books in her “The Madman’s Daughter” series. Published by HarperCollinsPublishers, “The Madman’s Daughter” is a science fiction novel.

The setting takes place during the 1800s in London, England.  Juliet Moreau is the main character of the novel. Her father, Dr. Moreau, used to be London’s best and most widely recognized surgeon, making him a very wealthy individual– but that was before the scandal happened.

Fast-forward, six years later, and Juliet Moreau went from being a happy, young, rich girl with loving parents and many servants, to being a poor sixteen-year-old orphan who makes a living as a maid at King’s College. The only person who seems to care about her is Lucy. Juliet and Lucy have been friends for a long time, back when Lucy’s parents thought that Juliet was a good influence to their daughter, but that changed. However, even though Lucy’s parents do not approve, they are still friends.

One evening, right after her shift, Juliet meets Lucy, who had been waiting for her in the cold. After socializing with some drunk male college students, all of them, including Juliet, decide to go inside the college to explore, only to find a group of students performing vivisection (dissection performed on a still living organism) on a rabbit. Juliet, wanting to end the poor creature’s misery, cuts its head off. When she sees the chart according to which the college students are performing surgery, she sees her “dead” father’s signature – which is what makes her want to search for him.

She desperately searches at a hotel in hopes of finding him. To her surprise, she finds Montgomery, her old friend and servant, who is about to leave London in two days, only to go back to her father with a ship full of supplies for his crazy experiments. After cutting the tendons in Dr. Hastings’s wrist, who calls the police, Juliet convinces Montgomery to take her with him.

Their trip is a long journey with a boat, accompanied by wild, loud animals in cages, Balthazar, who has an awfully deformed face and body, a very aggressive captain, many storms, and an almost-dead castaway, Edward Prince. Juliet is thrilled to reach her father’s island. From the moment she sets foot of that island, though, it feels like something is wrong – terribly wrong. Then her father “jokingly” throws Edward into the water and lets him drown, until Montgomery decides to finally save him.

While Juliet lives there, she sneaks into her father’s laboratory at night, since she cannot hold her curiosity in after long hours of hearing the terrible, horrific screams of desperate animals. To her surprise, she finally finds out about “the scandal” that has ruined her life. Her father, being an amazingly skilled surgeon, performs vivisection on animals to transform them into humans. This requires numerous complex surgeries on the animals’ spines, and replacing their organs with a variety of animal organs. The result? Monstrous beings, also known as the islanders. The worst part is that he does not anesthetize them, therefore making them suffer an enormous amount of pain. She also gets suspicious when she learns that these islanders take the same treatment as her and starts questioning her existence. Though Montgomery keeps telling her that she is thinking irrationally, since her treatment is for her pancreatic disease, while theirs is to keep their bodies from rejecting organs, Juliet is convinced that there is something wrong with her.

Juliet knows the she will not be able to live a life like this; knowing that her father is the madman everyone was talking about. Also, the creature that is free, slaughtering the islanders, is not making the situation any better.  She must escape – fast. Even though the plan was to escape with Edward, Montgomery, and Alice, the plans change – and they change a lot.

“In the darkest of places, even love is deadly”.

 

“Perfect Escape”

Cover of book Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

“Perfect Escape” is a  young adult novel written by Jennifer Brown. Published by Little, Brown & Company, “Perfect Escape” is a book of 368 pages. Though it has no extraordinary suspense, the plot and interesting words the author uses, as well as the imagery, this book will have you keep reading until you discover the secret the protagonist has been hiding since the beginning.

The entire novel is written from the protagonist’s point of view, named Kendra. Kendra’s brother, Grayson, or “Genius Boy” as Kendra calls him, is suffering from severe OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). OCD is defined as “a mental illness in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), and behaviors that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts”. Kendra, as the “normal” child in the family, has always found herself having to be perfect in order to be a replacement for Grayson.

Kendra’s world seems to turn upside-down when her best friend since birth moves from her old house, because her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Monett, didn’t want their daughter in a relationship with a mentally-ill person. Now, one of her best friends, Zoe, is gone, and her other best friend and brother, Grayson, is depressed. She feels lonely, especially when her brother went from sharing all his secrets with Kendra, to closing himself in a “bubble” which he refuses to come out of. Will Kendra ever be herself? Will she move on, or will she wait for everything to go back to normal?

Kendra has now found a replacement for the blank space in her heart, by having Lia and Shani as her friends. Her life is starting to get easy again for the first time in years. No more staying up at night, listening to her brother’s screams as her parents rush him into the hospital. No more searching for him in the middle of the night with her parents and neighbors. No more searching for him in the quarry, his only company being the thousands and thousands of rocks and a ruler. No more drama. With her brother away for treatment, her friends by her side, herself being an example of success at school, and being ready to graduate high school, her life seems to be okay – almost normal. Almost. That is until her brother returns from treatment. It is until she makes a mistake – a big one; a mistake that will cost her going to college. The mistake that will keep her from building her future. She now finds herself in a dead end. Add the fact that Zoe has been ignoring her e-mails, and there you have the perfect recipe for escape. Will she stay to face the consequences? Will she stay to see the disappointment in her parents’ faces? Or will she run away? Will we ever know what Kendra’s big mistake was?

“We all know what Grayson’s difficulties were. Grayson’s difficulties dominated his life. And Mom’s and Dad’s. And mine. Sometimes it felt like especially mine.”

For the most part, I really enjoyed reading this book. From the plot twist, to the interesting information about OCD, this book was almost perfect. I did not like the fact that Kendra is so jealous of Grayson throughout the whole book, and that she uses him as an excuse in her everyday life. No matter what she does, whether that is failing a test or being late to class, her excuse will always be her mentally-ill brother. She does not show much empathy for Grayson, and does not even try to understand him. However, after all that happened to her, she finally got to understand him and love him for whom he is. I recommend this book, mainly because of the interesting information on OCD and how it can affect people’s lives, as well as the interesting plot twist. However, I would not recommend it if you – or a loved one – are suffering from OCD, since I think that this novel might be triggering in that case. 4/5. +12.

“These Shallow Graves”, Review

Cover of book These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

“These Shallow Graves” is a novel by Jennifer Donnelly. Published by Delacorte Press, it is a young adult, romance, mystery, and historical fiction novel. It is a book of 488 pages, each of which is filled with suspense, emotion, and mystery that will keep you turning the pages with curiosity.

Set in the 1890’s in New York, the story is focused on Josephine – or Jo – Montfort, daughter of one of New York’s most successful businessmen, owner of a newspaper for twenty years and partner of a massive shipping firm. Jo is beautiful, rich, young, and popular. A 17-year-old, she will soon graduate school and marry Bram Aldrich, a fine young man from another wealthy and successful family, a friend whom Jo has known for a very long time. Jo, however, has other dreams for herself; she dreams of becoming a writer, just like Nellie Bly, her idol. At that time, though, it was deemed unacceptable for a young lady of her class to practice such a profession. Her determined personality and the need to know the truth will completely change the course of the story.

Jo’s life is perfect; but that is about to change. On September 17, 1890, Jo is at Miss Sparkwell’s School for Young Ladies, which is nothing out of the ordinary. Suddenly, she is called to the office. Jo thinks that she is called to the office because of an article she wrote about the abuse of girl laborers at Fenton’s Textile Mill. Though Jo’s article could have been controversial, and a good reason to be called to the office, she soon learns that it is not about that; Charles Montfort, her father, is dead. According to Bram and Addie, he “was cleaning a revolver in his study last night and it went off”. That is when Jo’s life takes a dramatic twist.

Jo does not believe her father’s death was an accident- he was far too clever to clean a loaded gun. One day, after her father’s funeral luncheon, she decides to go to her father’s newspaper, to deliver a bequest from him. She meets Edward – or Eddie – Gallagher, a handsome reporter who, unaware of Jo’s background, says that her father committed suicide. Furious, Jo starts yelling, which attracts attention. This poor first-impression causes them to get to know each other better. Together, they discover the cruel reality of her father’s death, that it wasn’t an accident. How far will Jo go to uncover the truth?

“Be careful how deep you bury the past”.

Jennifer Donnelly has an excellent writing style. Through vivid descriptions, I was able to imagine the setting through Jo’s eyes, which was amazingly fascinating. The first page-and-a-half is a flash into the future. The book starts with Jo, Eddie, and Oscar, a character that Jo meets later into the story, digging up a grave. This introduction engages the readers. Also, there is a map of New York in the very beginning of the book, which helps readers understand events and where they take place better. It is a very fascinating book, and I constantly found myself saying “one more chapter”. I also like most of the characters’ personalities. Even though Jo Montfort is extremely wealthy, she acts very humble most of the times. It is a very well-written book, full of mystery, suspense, and interesting characters. It is very original and different, and I can say it is one of the best books I have read so far. The characters have unique personalities and are well-drawn, and what is socially acceptable in this story seems to correspond to the era.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys suspense and mystery. Most of the events in the story are unpredictable, which is something that makes it appealing. I particularly enjoyed the ending of this book. Though I had my suspicions, it was different than what I had imagined. If you are sensitive towards references to subjects such as dead bodies, strange odors, and murders, I would question if this is the book for you. Overall, I would rate this book 5/5 for the interesting plot and the author’s writing style. +13.

“Beware That Girl”

Cover of Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten

Review by evant794

“Beware That Girl” is a fiction, young adult novel, by Teresa Toten. Published by Delacorte Press, it is a novel of 336 pages that will keep you wondering until the last sentence.

The point of view switches between Kate and Olivia, the two main characters. The two seniors come from two entirely different worlds. Kate is a street-smart and book-smart scholarship student at the Waverly School in NYC. As the summary of the book states, “she’s also a masterful liar”. “I’m comfortable with the weight of my lies. So I’m good” –Kate, page 3. Kate doesn’t want to lie, but she has to. She always has to. Having lived through many tough experiences and setbacks, that doesn’t stop her from having her eye on the prize—Yale. What does stop her, however, is that she cannot afford to stay in the old storage place she stays in, which she rents from her boss, Mrs. Chen, a Chinese restaurant-owner. She deserves better, and she is willing to get it.

Olivia, on the other hand, is the daughter of a rich businessman, Mr. Sumner. Olivia, though smart, is not as smart as Kate. Olivia has it all easy, unlike Kate. She doesn’t have to worry about paying the rent, or about eating. She doesn’t have to worry about a scholarship, either—her father can provide her with all she needs.

Being a new student, Kate immediately spots her target—Olivia Sumner. Kate, from the start, knows that Olivia had something special—something that made her different from the other girls.  They both share the same AP English class, and that is just enough for Kate to charm her way into Olivia’s life.

When handsome Mark Redkin earns himself a place in the Waverly Administration, he immediately wins the hearts of both the faculty and the students. Olivia, being a member of the Waverly Wonders, gets very familiar with Redkin, something she keeps to herself. However, it becomes obvious that he poses a threat both to Olivia and Kate—something Olivia is not willing to risk. Why is Mark Redkin a threat? What will Olivia and Kate do?

 

“Watch me now.

  Pay close attention.

  Survival of the fittest, baby.”

 

I really enjoyed reading this book. Kate’s unique way of thinking is truly interesting, and the way that she gets into Olivia’s life, and becomes her “friend” is very clever. It is interesting to see how two girls that are so different from one another can go along so well. I also like how even though Kate approached Olivia only because she was wealthy—in the first place—she starts to care about her when Mark becomes a threat. They become close friends—real friends.

Together, they both try to find a way to stop Mark Redkin. They invite him to Olivia’s house when her father went out of town, in order to record his words and use them against him. Kate is the one who talks to him, and Olivia waits, in case things get out-of-hand. When they do, and Redkin is ready to throw Kate out of the window, Olivia hits him it the head with a pan so hard that he dies on the spot. Even though Olivia does not intend to kill him, along with Kate, they figure that the only way to cover what they did is to throw him in the river. For that reason, they drive miles until they reached a famous and very strong river, where they let a rented car trail, and throw him in the river. The police think that he escaped, since he already had charges against him. That makes their plan perfect—no one would ever know they did.

What I strongly dislike about this part is that murder appears to be a good solution with no consequences. That passes negative messages to young readers. What they could have done was to tell someone older, instead of dealing with the situation themselves. Redkin would have gone to prison. In the end, it seems like their life becomes better because they killed Redkin, which no longer makes him a threat. 4/5, also because of a few bad words. +12.