I’ve been remiss in my duties – I completely missed Tuesday was the 219th anniversary of the birth of the great Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Not only did she write Frankenstein -argued to be the first science fiction novel ever- she had a fascinating life. Her mother was the great Mary Wollstonecraft, an early proto-feminist who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in which she argued for equality in education in men and women. Sadly, her mother died shortly after Mary was born. But the rest of her life was no less interesting. She flouted convention by running off with the still-married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Their social circle included the notorious Lord Byron and John William Polidori, creator of perhaps the first vampire story in modern fiction (although the authorship is still debated today.)
The genesis of Frankenstein began during a sojourn by Lake Geneva. Lord Byron proposed that each of the guests each write a ghost story. Mary struggled for some time, but eventually, after a strange dream, began to write Frankenstein. She was only eighteen at the time, which is pretty impressive. The rest of her life was pretty hard; she had to deal with the death of her husband, some of her children, and debt. But Frankenstein remains a classic. And of course I have recommendations! Frankenstein is a great source of inspiration for writers.
Frankenstein, or, The modern prometheus, Mary Shelley
Of course I have to start with the book that started it all. It’s not just a straightforward science fiction story; it looks at the possibilities and potential abuses of scientific knowledge, questions of personhood as well as guilt and responsibility. Frankenstein’s “monster” is not the green-faced, bolt-necked, incoherent monster of the movies. Rather he’s able to articulate his suffering as on outcast in a way that still resonates: “I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
Hideous love : the story of the girl who wrote Frankenstein, Stephanie Hemphill
This book tells the story of Mary Shelley herself; her life from her childhood to the death of her husband. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking novel told in free verse poetry. Don’t let that put you off picking it up, though – not a word is wasted. It’s sparse and beautiful and affecting – much more than any other biography of Mary Shelley I’ve read.
Man made boy, Jon Skovron
What if Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride of Frankenstein had a son? Simply called Boy, he struggles to fit in with The Show, a refuge for other strange (mostly magical) creatures. He longs for a life outside, so makes the decision to leave – then goes on a road trip, while struggling to deal with a creation of his own. There’s also a sequel, This broken wondrous world.
I recently finished reading Silver Shadow. This book is part of the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead. I really like the way she writes and could find a way of going beyond the idea of vampires and actually create a whole new hidden society of humans and put some magic together, I guess it makes it more interesting than your average vampire story.
Silver shadows / Richelle Mead.
“In the aftermath of an event that ripped their world apart, Sydney and Adrian struggle to pick up the pieces and find their way back to each other. But first, they have to survive.” (Syndetics)
This is the 5th in the series, if you want to check out the series from the beginning, Bloodlines is the first one.
Bloodlines / Richelle Mead.
“The first book in Mead’s brand-new teen fiction series–set in the same world as Vampire Academy. When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.” (Syndetics summary)
Richelle Mead has also written a bunch of other series including the Vampire Academy and some Adult Sci-Fi as well.
Vampire Academy / Richelle Mead.
“After two years on the run, best friends Rose, half-human/half-vampire, and Lissa, a mortal vampire princess, are caught and returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy. Up until then, Rose had kept Lissa safe from her enemies; school, however, brings both girls additional challenges and responsibilities. How they handle peer pressure, nasty gossip, new relationships, and anonymous threats may mean life or death.” (Booklist)
This book has also been made into a movie which you can reserve here. Have fun checking out all of them!
I first read Feeling Sorry For Celia and Finding Cassie Crazy (of which we have the eBook only) a few years ago and absolutely loved them. They are both from Jaclyn’s Ashbury/Brookfield “series” although the books are more like companion novels than a series. That series also includes The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie and The Ghosts of Ashbury High. These books revolve around a number of students who attend either the exclusive and private Ashbury High or Brookfield High, the local public school. Each book has characters that cross over to the other novels, but each one is a separate story to the others. All four books are told in epistolary style, which means they are written as a series of documents, such as diary entries, emails, exam papers, notes etc.
More recently I read the first two books in Jaclyn’s Colours of Madeleine trilogy (although you will find it under colors, not colours). These books are written in Jaclyn’s trademark style, often subverting “facts” that you thought you knew and revealing that events or ideas that seemed incidental at the time are in fact central plot points. They also use epistolary elements to tell the story although these are lesser, and the narrative swaps between two main characters in each chapter. This series also marks a shift into fantasy writing, and it suits Jaclyn’s writing style very well.
In A Corner of White, fifteen-year-old Elliot Baranski lives in Bonfire, The Farms in the Kingdom of Cello. Here, seasons roam as they please and bells warn citizens of dangerous colour attacks. Madeleine Tully lives in Cambridge, England in The World, our world, and lives by the laws of Isaac Newton. They live apart in their own worlds, unaware even of the existence of other worlds until one day they discover a connection. Just a crack, enough for a letter to get through. Elliot and Madeleine begin to write to each other through the crack between their worlds. Elliot writes to Madeleine about his missing father who was taken in an attack by a rogue purple which also killed his uncle, about the deftball final he’s about to compete in, and about the Butterfly Child he rescued from a glass jar. At first Madeleine doesn’t believe Elliot is even real, but she still writes to him about her own absent father, about how she misses the life of luxury she used to live and about the laws of Isaac Newton.
A Corner of White contains a lot of world-building elements with a building mystery behind it all. The second book, The Cracks in the Kingdom dives straight into the adventure having already set up the world in which it all takes place.
It may sound like a lot to take in, but Jaclyn’s writing takes you under its wing and makes you comfortable. She never over-explains, she will always let you come to your own conclusions. For example she never actually describes what the attacking colours look like, only their effects. Giving the reader so much input is part of what makes her writing so effective and powerful.
We have most of Jaclyn’s books available as eBooks as well as in print. She has also written I Have A Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes and The Spellbook of Listen Taylor (only available as eBooks), a rewritten adaptation of the former. Lots of Jaclyn’s books have been published under alternate titles, so you may need to check which is which if you come across an unfamiliar title. I hope you have fun exploring the worlds of Jaclyn Moriarty!