ARC REVIEW: This Broken Wondrous World by Jon SkovronThis Broken Wondrous World by Jon Skovron
Series: Man Made Boy #2
Published by Viking Juvenille on August 4, 2015
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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“My fellow monsters,” said Moreau. “No longer will we hide in the shadows, cringing, cowardly, hiding our true potential. You see, the humans do not view us as people. We must force them to expand their view of personhood to include us. By any means necessary.”

A year ago, Boy, the son of Frankenstein’s monster, had never even met a human. Now he’s living with his human “family,” the descendants of Dr. Frankenstein, in Switzerland. That is, until the maniacal genius Dr. Moreau, long-ago banished to a remote island for his crimes against humanity, asks for Boy's help.   Moreau wants Boy to join his army of animal/human hybrid creatures and help him overthrow human society. Boy will do anything to save this broken, wondrous world from the war that threatens to split it in two. But how much will he have to give up? And is the world worth saving?

I didn’t realize this was the second book in a series when I got it for review. Otherwise, I would have read Skovron’s Man Made Boy before diving into TBWW.

Man Mad Boy cover

 

This book was like reading a graphic novel for me- something completely out of my comfort zone and my predictable preferences. The fact that I ended up enjoying this book (a lot, actually), makes me question how well I know myself.

TBWW is rife with political, cultural, and societal commentary dressed up in a wonderfully insane premise and wonderfully colorful characters who are far from human, but surprisingly humane.

Jon’s writing has a mad genius feel to it, and he regularly mixes instances of pure juvenile prose with clever, enlightening moments of eloquence. (Yes. I just said that.) I found myself reflecting on what I was reading often, trying to piece together what the author was ”really saying” beneath the gruesome and fantastical story. I even found myself staring at the cover, trying to figure out why the KEN was lighter in the word BROKEN. Now, that may just be me going overboard reading into things, but I love stories that make me do that. Stories that make me think a novel stands for something greater than the sum of its parts. And I think that’s maybe one of the things the author pieces together about our monstrous, “flesh golem”, Boy. Although quite frightening on the outside, he is often times more human in thought and emotion than those around him.

“…I have not seen your kind here in over a century.”

“My kind?”

” Ya. A giant man made from dead men.”

“The technical term is ‘flesh golem’.” Golems were people made from inanimate objects. The material could be anything- clay, stone, metal. As far as I knew, my parents and I were the only ones made from body parts.

The world building is nicely done between the different time zones visited throughout the novel, but the characters definitely steal the show over the action packed plot. At some points in the novel I found myself thinking “I’m gonna throw up in my mouth”. The Doctor Moreau thread to the story was wholly grotesque and gut- wrenching.

The-Island-Of-Dr-Moreau

While La Perricholi, a Latin American bad ass, was my favorite character in the novel, there were plenty of others to choose from, though none as show stopping as her in my opinion.

Then a slim figure dressed in black and red ran into the middle of the fight, striking out at the pig men so fast that the movements were only a blur. A moment later, the three pig men dropped to the ground and a women stood next to Henri. She looked to be in her early twenties, wore a black dress with red ruffles, and had a single red rose tucked into her long black hair.

This Broken Wondrous World takes the reader across continents and across the vast complexities of the human psyche. Fast-paced and thought-provoking, TBWW is as entertaining as a novel can get. After finishing the book, I imagined myself sitting across from an intimidating and mysterious looking Jon Skovron with a note pad in one of my hands and a pencil clutched in the other, desperately asking, “But what does it all mean?!”. And of course, he responds, “Silly girl. Trix are for kids!”.

 

Was anyone else traumatized when they were younger by The Island of Doctor Moreau movie starring Val Kilmer?!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QagEozqPZs

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A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs WallerA Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Published by Penguin Books, Viking Juvenille on January 23, 2014
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
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Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

It’s almost been a year since I read this book, but I can’t let the New Year ring in without reviewing it because A Mad, Wicked Folly was one of my FAVE books of 2014.

Imagine the lush world created in 1998’s Titanic film or the luxurious settings of PBS’s Downton Abbey, and you  have the story world of  A Mad, Wicked Folly. As if that isn’t enough to make someone run to their nearest book retailer and pick up a copy, A Mad, Wicked Folly unfolds in an exciting time: the crux of the Women’s Suffrage movement in London.

DA-Hypebeast

I LOVE historical fiction novels that have to do with the empowerment of women. This book made me want to run to the voting polls and exercise my right to vote for ANYTHING. It made me appreciate the rich history of women fighting for equal rights for the sake of future generations of women and for the sake of social justice.

A Mad pic

Victoria aka Vicky is the stuff that hardy heroines are made of. She is a talented artist and has a good head on her shoulders. She dares to step outside of the obligations and restraints of her social class and pursue her heart’s desire. While doing so, she causes quite the scandal and her parent’s rush to marry her off to some rich dolt.

Vicky will not have it.

Her thoughts, ideas, perspective- her whole world is set on fire after discovering the woman’s suffrage movement in London upon coming home from art school in Paris, and things will never be the same for her. She’s no longer able to settle into the life her parent’s had planned for her, and in this brilliantly written novel we watch Vicky blossom into a woman.

Everything is beautifully described in the novel. The historical context was so inspiring, and the working-class boy she falls for provides for a dangerous and steamy Edwardian romance. Her clandestine relationship reminds me of Rose and Jack from the Titanic film.

The story kept me engaged until I finished it, practically in one sitting. Fans of Lady Sibil Crawley in the first season of Downton Abbey will LOVE Vicky in A Mad, Wicked Folly.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I adore this book and wish I had reviewed it sooner when it was still fresh in my mind so I could have elaborated more on it’s charms. Needless to say, A Mad, Wicked Folly is one of those books that I will cherish, and reread, and want to pass on to my future daughter.

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NOBLE NOVEMBER: Tarnish by Katherine LongshoreTarnish by Katherine Longshore
Published by Viking Juvenille on June 18, 2013
Pages: 448
Format: eBook
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Anne Boleyn is the odd girl out. Newly arrived to the court of King Henry VIII, everything about her seems wrong, from her clothes to her manners to her witty but sharp tongue. So when the dashing poet Thomas Wyatt offers to coach her on how to shine at court—and to convince the whole court they’re lovers—she accepts. Before long, Anne’s popularity has soared, and even the charismatic and irresistible king takes notice. More than popularity, Anne wants a voice—but she also wants love. What began as a game becomes high stakes as Anne finds herself forced to make an impossible choice between her heart’s desire and the chance to make history.

Hoes before Bros.

King Henry lost his proverbial head before Anne did.

I wasn’t all that impressed or moved by Katherine Longshore’s Gilt as you know if you read my review of it here, but I really enjoyed Tarnish. Where I felt Gilt was a little stiff and read like ages 9-13 appropriate, Tarnish loosened up and felt YA for an older age group. We’re all familiar with the story of Anne Boleyn. She literally lost her head for King Henry VIII, and pushed him to sever ties with Rome in order to make her Queen of England. She drove King Henry to lustful madness, and to choose her over all of his closest male advisors and friends. King Henry’s lust for Anne made him choose her over his own dignity. Maybe that’s why things didn’t turn out well in the end. Anne Boleyn was a woman on a mission who got caught up in her own tedious game of chess. But all of those things are redundant no matter how you write about them. Katherine Longshore managed to present us with something fresh on Anne Boleyn, in a way that would rival Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl.

Anne made King Henry lose his head in lust.
Anne made King Henry lose his head in lust.

We meet Anne a few years prior to her short-lived Queen of England days, and Katherine Longshore gives us a worm’s eye view of what makes Anne Boleyn tick. Anne’s emotions are volatile in Tarnish, and created a person I could empathize with. At the same time, the thoughts and emotions that drive Anne made me annoyed with her. I was constantly questioning her reasoning skills and her motivations. Katherine managed to present Anne’s sister Mary, and brother George in a much harsher light than what I’ve known about them from other texts. I liked this aspect of the story because I think it made Anne’s character that much more believable.

Anne Boleyn
A plotting Anne Boleyn

All of the plotting, coying, and toying that come with court life were very entertaining. Katherine perfectly captured the spirit of England and the King’s court. Reading Tarnish was like walking into the lost pages of a history book. My enjoyment of the historically accurate aspects aside, it was the relationship and go-between of Anne and Thomas Wyatt that made this story for me. I have always thought we never hear or learn quite enough about Thomas Wyatt in Historical Fiction or other historical texts for that matter. I really, really, really liked that Katherine fleshed him out for us. As his character takes shape, the harsh things that I disliked about him melt away once he is caught in Anne’s orbit. The build-up and story between them was just right, and just what I wanted from this book.

Looks like I'm not the only one who thought Anne should have chose Thomas.
Looks like I’m not the only one who thought Anne should have chose Thomas.

Tarnish takes us through Anne’s days as naive and wounded Lark, to plotting and powerful Raven. Anne refused to be anyone’s mistress, but why? We learn in this book that it wasn’t about honor, but about being the woman on top. Anne chooses power over love. She chooses to win at her own self-imposed game, rather than lose herself to the many unknowns that accompany her heart-felt love and regard of Thomas Wyatt. Katherine Longshore ends the story at a place in Anne Boleyn’s tale that gives the utmost impact. I loved it.

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NOBLE NOVEMBER: Gilt by Katherine LongshoreGilt by Katherine Longshore
Published by Viking Juvenille on May 15, 2012
Pages: 406
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
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In the court of King Henry VIII, nothing is free--
and love comes at the highest price of all.
 

When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Jewels, and Bitches, and Boys! Oh, my!

If you have watched HBO’s The Tudors, or nurse a love for English history (as do I), than you have probably been drawn to the Gilt, Tarnish, and Brazen books by Katherine Longshore. The stunning covers on the most recent editions of these books invoke a sense of richness and luxury reserved for kings and queens. I appreciate the hours and hard work spent on Katherine’s part to shine light on the nooks and crannies of court life, and character’s that would have otherwise been forgotten by time. Gilt tells the story of Catherine Howard’s short-lived reign through the eyes of her best friend, Katherine (aka Kitty) Tylney.

Cat Howard
Cat took to court life like a fish to water.

The story follows Kitty, Catherine, and their tight-nit group of friend’s journey from bored and unruly, to courtly and untamed. Catherine is the Queen of Misrule amongst her friends, and there is no shortage of wild, midnight escapades, and cunning sneak-aways where Catherine is involved. When Catherine Howard finally gets her chance at court life, her closest friends are left behind to revel at her new, and exciting  opportunity. As Cat’s best friend, Kitty knows that she plans to play at much more than courtier. Catherine has her eyes set on the King. She wants to be the Queen of England.

I imagine Cat and her entourage partying late at night like this scene from the movie Cracks.
I imagine Cat and her entourage partying late at night like this scene from the movie Cracks.

Things go as planned for Catherine, and it’s not long before she employs Kitty and her other close friends from her pre-court days as her chambermaids. Kitty is delighted to have a chance at a new life, but it means leaving behind a boy she grew fond of after Cat went to court. Kitty finally felt like she was able to flourish outside of Cat’s shadow once she left. Going to court might mean putting up with Catherine’s whims and catty ways again, but it is a risk Kitty is willing to take because she has no family or title to ensure her livelihood.

Kitty quickly becomes ensconced in court-life, and the beautiful dresses and jewels the king bestows upon Catherine have no end. Catherine has secured the King’s love, but she has yet to be crowned. Cat is playing a dangerous game with the men at court, and Kitty fears that the rowdy and less-than innocent behavior of Catherine before she became Queen will come back to haunt all of them.

King Henry smitten with Catherine Howard.
King Henry smitten with Catherine Howard.

The author paints a realistic vision of court-life, and it is akin to a den of vipers. No one can be trusted, and Catherine knows she is loathed by most women at court. Lustful escapades, and treacherous talk come back to convict Catherine, but she is not the only one that is implicated for her bad behavior. No one in Catherine’s fold leaves court unscathed.

In the end, I think being well schooled on English Monarchs and having seen The Tudors hurt my experience with this book. I enjoyed all historical accuracy and detail, but wasn’t very entertained or transfixed. I mean, I already knew what the ending of the story was going to be, so that wasn’t my issue. I think we are meant to despise Catherine Howard and sympathize with Kitty’s character, but that never happened for me. I disliked Kitty as much as I disliked Cat. Even though this was a different take/view on the story of Catherine Howard, it didn’t feel like it offered anything new. This story was through Kitty’s eyes and experiences, but I didn’t feel like it was Kitty’s story. It was still Catherine Howard’s. Catherine and Kitty have their share of rendezvous, but they were all just short of romantic. They read like minor details, and don’t satisfy a romantic sweet-tooth. I wasn’t stunned by this book, but I liked it. I will still read Katherine Longshore’s Tarnish and Brazen. If you are not familiar with the rule of King Henry VIII or the story of Catherine Howard, then I think you will enjoy this well researched Historical YA novel.

 

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