Something Strange and Deadly

Oh! Hello there! Long time no see! I’m really happy to be blogging again and I’m sipping some green tea and smiling because I just really forgot how much I enjoy blogging! So any-hoo, tonight I’m going to review a book that I read last year and just recently finished re-reading. Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard was SUCH a good read that I just couldn’t resist writing a review about it.

Now I hope by now everyone knows that I am throughly obsessed with zombie stories, and by obsessed I mean if it has any sort of walking dead I’ll give it a try. I will read any zombie story ranging from gross to extremely disgusting. Luckily for the readers with delicate sensibilities, this book didn’t have anything TOO gory! The book is set in Victorian Philadelphia which was another thing that I really enjoyed about the story. Dennard’s combination of these two elements ultimately made this book irresistible to me, and I had to pick it up.

The protagonist of Something Strange and Deadly was Eleanor Fitt, who definitely didn’t fit the typical mold of a “proper” lady. Eleanor’s father dies after his business fails and the Fitt family finds themselves with a bit of a money issue. Eleanor’s brother Eli, leaves to travel the world, and the book begins with Eleanor anxiously waiting his arrival back in Philadelphia. Unfortunately for her, fate has other plans as she is mysteriously handed a telegraph from her brother by a zombie…yup a real grotesque creature in its own right. Soon after Eleanor enlists the help of the Spirit Hunters, a trio that was called to town as soon as the dead began walking. With the help of these three, Eleanor quickly begins to find out exactly who she is and what she wants.

I think that Eleanor is easily one of the best protagonists I’ve read in young adult fiction today. She was smart, fiercely independent, and just plain fabulous. I liked Eleanor because she wasn’t what someone during that time would consider perfect or extraordinarily beautiful, which made her more relatable. Although many women at that time were expected to be complacent and lady-like, Eleanor really began to speak her mind as the book went on and I really liked that as readers we were able to see her growth. By the end of the book I was completely girl-crushing on Eleanor because of the strength and poise she exhibited throughout her trials.

I can always appreciate a good cover!

I can always appreciate a good cover!

I absolutely adored Daniel as a love interest, mostly because he wasn’t misogynistic or overbearing. He didn’t treat Eleanor like a porcelain doll except for when he was worried about her safety (and this was more because Eleanor was not used to fighting or being in dangerous situations, not necessarily because she was a female). He eventually gave up trying to protect her and let her do what she wanted/needed to do, which was a nice departure from the usual trope of love interests.The other Spirit Hunters were equally as kick-butt and overall Dennard did a great job with character development. Joseph and Ji (the other two spirit hunters) were great supporting characters that really fostered Eleanor’s growth.

The plot of the book was so mouth watering to me – I just absolutely loved it! I thought that Dennard did a really good job creating a mysterious, romantic, action-y novel without making either of those elements over the top. As the book went on I found myself really wondering exactly what was happening and who was behind everything because the mystery was so complex and well written. I liked that the book had some mystical elements that didn’t feel over the top and crazy. I liked that the zombies weren’t your typical run-of-the-mill zombies that are all too common today. The pacing of the novel really worked for me as well, as Dennard brings us right into the action and doesn’t let us up for air until the end. There were no superfluous parts and the writing was tight. On the plot level, I definitely think that this book was extremely strong.

If you like a strong female protagonist, a mouth-watering love interest, and some zombie action I would DEFINITELY recommend this book. Even if zombies aren’t typically your cup of tea, this book had a lot of other very interesting elements and a strong plot, so don’t be intimidated by the subject matter too much. Until next time, lovely readers!

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1…2…3…YA READY?!

Okay, so as we all know, I have been a very neglectful blogger lately. I’M SORRY. Summer makes me lazy thus my erratic posting. However, I am going to make it up to all of my faithful readers (do I even have those?) by posting five reviews in honor of the last week of summer. That’s right, I said it, FIVE REVIEWS. I feel like if I post this post I am obligated thus I cannot not do it. I have already decided what books I am going to review but I’ll surprise you guys!

So on the opposite side of the spectrum, I have really been thinking a lot about my reviews and if I go too easy/hard on certain books. I really have been thinking about what criterion a book has to meet in order for it to be “good” in my standards. When I am starring books on Goodreads (I can’t review EVERYTHING I read or else we’d be here for days) I sometimes ponder certain books a lot and sometimes I end up going back to them and changing their rating. So in order to help you all understand what my process is, I have decided to devise a short list (and by short I mean like really really short).

1. What is the book supposed to be? Obviously in YA we don’t have a lot of deep, hard hitting stories that really reach into your core and change something within you. On Goodreads there is a list called “The Greatest Books of All Time” and it honestly sickens me that Twilight is at the top of the list. As I scrolled down the list I saw classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn and honestly I can tell you that the majority of books on that list were classics. THERE IS A REASON THEY ARE CLASSICS! You can’t compare Twilight to a classic because there is LITERALLY NOTHING TO COMPARE! So what I am trying to get at is that you have to look at a book for what it is supposed to be. If it is supposed to be a cheesy-chick-lit YA book, don’t compare it to Jane Austen, compare it to others of it’s kind! So when a book gets a really good review from me, that means that I think it is good for what it is supposed to be, not in comparison to heavy duty reading!

2. How did I like the characters? Are they all relate-able? I think that the most important element of a book is the characters for sure. If I don’t even like the characters, how am I supposed to be interested in the novel? For a character to be interesting to me, I have to connect with them on multiple levels meaning that even if I have never been in their situation, I have to be able to understand why they make choices that they make. The secondary characters, to me, are just as important if not more important that the main ones. When a protagonist has a good supporting group, it makes me so much more interested and invested in them. Awesome examples of great protagonists and supporting characters can be found in Sarah Dessen novels, don’t ask me how she does it – SHE’S THE QUEEN.

3. Timing is EVERYTHING. If a book moves too fast, I absolutely cannot STAND it. However, if a book moves too slow, it can hurt it as well. A book that I’ve read recently that had pacing problems (it went WAY too fast) was Girl Possessed by Réussie Miliardario. I didn’t like the protagonist to start with but the plot was interesting enough for me to continue reading. However, what killed it was the pacing – TOO FAST. I can’t think of an example of a book that moved slow enough to kill it for me because slowness doesn’t bother me as much. At the end of the day the author must set the pace of the book correctly in order for me to not become uninterested/bored.

These are the three main things that really decide if I like a book or not, the most important being number one of course! YA is a genre filled with amazing books and then some not-so-amazing books, so in order for me to find the best ones, of course I’m going to stumble on a few bad apples and a few good ones. There will always be the unremarkable ones, the great ones, and the terrible ones, so I have to do my best to find the ones worth reading.

On a lighter note, tomorrow begins the “Five Days of Reviews” for you, and the “FIve Days of I-actually-have-to-do-stuff” for me. Until tomorrow lovely readers!

Oh the Woes of Insta-Love and Love Triangles!

I haven’t written any reviews in a while and the main reason why is that I really haven’t read a book that just made me go “WOW THAT’S AMAZING!” and I’ve been a bit uninspired. Of course if you’ve seen my twitter you know that I recently read the second book in the Bloodlines Series by Rachelle Mead and the fifth book in the Shadowhunters series by Cassandra Claire, but I just really haven’t had the energy to write a review they deserve. So today instead of reviewing a book I am going to go on a rant about the two biggest things I hate in Young Adult Fiction today. The first is the curse of insta-love, and the second is the horrific love triangle! Get ready for years of pent up emotions to be released in this post!

Insta-love (noun) – an instant passion that occurs over the course of a couple days; the terms “I am in love with ____” or “I love you” are commonly used after a matter of days/weeks (sometimes hours)

Insta-love is the probably the number one technique seen in YA Fiction today. Yupp that’s right. Pretty much every novel you pick up off the YA shelf will have some variation of this virus. The genre it is used most in? Definitely any kind of paranormal romance. I have pretty much read every variation of the Twilight insta-love ever created. EVER CREATED I TELL YOU. First we have our protagonist, usually an insecure female girl who has just encountered a major change in her life (i.e.: a big move, family member(s) died, etc) . Enter hunky, mysterious male lead with a bit of an anger problem and protection complex. Usually the male is unfriendly at first, scared of what he feels (BLECH!). They (against all odds of course) fall in love and face the evil together and then we have happily ever after. All over a course of months or days depending on how much lovin’ our characters are feeling. They of course get that little happy period where they can express their love before the imminent danger descends upon them. All is well until the sequel (AKA LOVE TRIANGLE). What some of these authors fail to understand is that we have already read 500 pages of this in Twilight – trust me when I say Stephanie Meyer covered the subject throughly; we don’t need more cut copies of it! Twilight is probably (dare I say) the best Twilight out there, we don’t need a billion different copies with different names and scenarios, we got it the first time!

I got a little off course (trust me there was a lot more on that subject than what was written) but now we shall focus on the insta-love. The reason I mentioned Twilight was because that is pretty much the mother of all insta-love scenarios. Edward and Bella meet and BOOM a couple weeks later they are declaring themselves in “love”. I cannot express to you, dear reader, how much I absolutely hate this. Whatever happened to love being something special that didn’t just occur overnight? Has anyone ever read any Jane Austin? The greatest romantic novels ever written didn’t just have the characters fall in love overnight. It used to be a gradual, sacred process that took us readers on a wild ride on an emotional roller coaster. To me, insta-love just makes everything so much more boring. I love to wait and yearn for the characters to even acknowledge that there is some sort of attraction between them, and yet in almost every book I pick up there is a few chapters of this and then BOOM insta-love claims another victim. Romances that span several books are the best kind to me, not this “I’m so in love with him/her” after a couple chapters stuff. I think the main reason that we see this over and over and over again is because in the world we live in, instant gratification is what everyone wants, heck I even want it sometimes. But books are where things should be different, where things should be sacred and not just another contribution to the fads of our time.

Now…On to my next rant: LOVE TRIANGLES!

love triangle (noun) – a scenario in which person A is “in love” with person B and person C at the same time; often causes a rift in a relationship which began before the third person was introduced; person A has to make a “life changing” choice between their two loves at the end

In previous posts I have mentioned how much I hate the dreaded love triangle, and I have finally decided to release all my frustrations in this lovely little rant. Where do I even begin? Well again I will bring your attention to Twilight which was one of the first love triangles I read that really really angered me. Bella was probably one of my least favorite protagonists ever (especially when Kirstin Stewart played her in the movie), and the love triangle just added fuel to my fire of hatred. What I just could not understand in any way, shape, or form was why Bella was even questioning her love for Edward. Wasn’t this the same guy that had her ready to give everything up for him? The one that was “too perfect” to be with her? And yet when he was in love with her she couldn’t make up her mind between him and Jacob, the younger annoying guy? As you can see I was clearly team Edward in this scenario, but that’s just it! I want to be able to love every character for who they are, not have to pick a side. Why should we have “team edward” or “team jacob” why can’t we all just be “team Bella don’t get killed even though you’re annoying”?

I don’t know why authors feel the need to add love triangles. Is it to spice it up or something? Because let me tell you most of those books are pretty spicy already with vampires, ghosts, werewolves, etc. trying to kill the protagonist. In fluffy chick-lit books it may be necessary, but not so much in paranormal/dystopian romances. Why can’t the protagonist just be in love with one freaking guy in the book? Is that too much to ask? Why do we have to go through the motions of pretending that the main character is going to end up with someone else that is not their “first love”? It is totally unnecessary and overused and I am sick of it, SICK OF IT I TELL YOU!

These lists may have some spoilers so beware!

Examples of books with suitable love triangles and/or no insta-love are:

  1. The Mortal Instruments Series – while Clary does have a bit of a love triangle in the beginning books, it is not the main focus of the book and it is resolved very well hence me still being able to read the series without being annoyed
  2. The Gallagher Girls Series – the love between our protagonist and Zach that started in book 2 really doesn’t happen overnight (amazing right) but it actually spans many books which makes it a lot more enjoyable and exciting read; also no love triangle and love actually isn’t the main focus of the book which is refreshing
  3. Bloodlines Series – while there are only two books in the series and I can’t really judge at this point, the author seems to be taking it in a good direction; the love definitely doesn’t happen overnight and there is no love triangle in the foreseeable future (thank goodness!)
  4. The Georgia Nicholson Series – there are so many love interests in this book that I could barely keep count, however the series is refreshing and honestly Georgia isn’t annoying about her love problems but is actually comedic about the whole thing; the series is pretty long so we get to see Georgia grow and learn while also watching her fall in love…over and over and well…over again
  5. Dead Is Series – while the love does happen in the first book, it is still refreshing in each book and doesn’t feel overly mushy; it is not the focus of the books and while the beginnings of a love triangle do appear, our protagonist doesn’t fall for it (you go girl!)
  6. Heist Society Series – another Ally Carter masterpiece with a fiercely independent protagonist and a cute (non-insta) love story; again can’t really tell you about love triangles yet because only two books have been released
  7. Harry Potter Series – one of the most beloved series of all time, and yet do we see a love triangle or insta-love? NO WE DON’T! you can be successful without one YA Authors, trust me JK Rowling did it beautifully, take notes?

Now a list of books that have been ruined for me because of love triangles/insta-love:

  1. Twilight Series – already went on about this but in short I hated the very core of this series which was pretty much a combo of vampires, insta-love, and a love triangle
  2. The Hunger Games Series – when I first started reading these books I couldn’t put them down but when I ended up on team Gale and Katniss didn’t, well…let’s just say that’s another reason to hate love triangles
  3. The Infernal Devices Series – honestly this is one of the WORST love triangles I have ever encountered; I cannot tell what is going to happen, but I can tell you it annoys me that both boys are so darn lovable; I wish I could say Tessa and WIll will end up together and everything will be happily ever after, but at this point there’s no telling
  4. The Carrier of the Mark – one of the absolute worst Twilight copies I have ever read; the insta-love was definitely puke-worthy and I cannot even promise that I finished the book because it was so bad
  5. Struck – this book had such an exciting premise but unfortunately the insta-love was really weird and the whole book just felt rushed (I guess and upcoming apocalypse can do that do a person…heh)
  6. The Vampire Academy Series – I hated and loved the protagonist at the same time mostly due to her badass-ness and her inability to choose a guy; we all knew how it was going to end up and yet the author made us fall in love with another guy after we had just fallen in love with the first one (this gets resolved in Bloodlines so I guess it isn’t the worst case)
  7. Fallen Series – the first book was amazing but the rest were really annoying; insta-love struck and I was okay with it until the second book when things became really stupid with the introduction of a small love triangle while there was simultaneously another love triangle even though it wasn’t an outward love triangle; confusing, I know, that’s why it made me mad

Now these aren’t all the good/bad books I have read that included/didn’t include love triangle and insta-love but these are the ones I can remember at this moment. The only thing I ask is that we get some books that aren’t based on these two simple things! I hope to review some of the books on those lists that I have so graciously compiled, but until then, happy reading!

Want me to review a book? Email me at youngadultbookmuncher@gmail.com or comment this post!

Dead is the New Black (Dead Is series #1)

If you are looking for a paranormal romance-y type book that isn’t a total Twilight cut copy, Dead is the New Black (and the rest of the series) is definitely for you! We have a super spunky protagonist, the evil-but-somewhat-likeable-has-a-good-heart cheerleader, and of course the best friend/love interest! This story introduced so many elements that really make it stand apart from the paranormal romances in this day an age, because let’s face it: many of them are Twilight with a different abnormality and names. Daisy Girodano and co. add a refreshing twist to a genera that is slowly but surely loosing new material.

Our story begins with Daisy’s junior year in high school in the small (fictional) town of Nightshade. Daisy is pretty much the opposite of popular, thanks to her used-to-be best friend Samantha “The Divine” Devereaux who humiliated her in middle school. Her only friend happens to be one of the hottest guys in school, Ryan Mendez (convenient – where can I get one?). As the story progresses, we learn that Daisy comes from a family of psychics (except for her dad, who disappeared mysteriously when she was in middle school). Daisy feels like an outsider to her own family as she is the only one in the house that has not developed psychic powers. The story centers around mysterious cheerleader behavior, a missing girl, and some very spooky secrets lurking in this paranormal little town.

I absolutely loved all of the characters in this book (except Penny because she was SO annoying). Daisy was an excellent main character as she had a good head on her shoulders, and a good sense of right and wrong. She also had a healthy curiousity that made the book interesting. She was very respectful, courageous, witty, and she really stayed true to who she was throughout the course of the novel. Samantha was also a very interesting character because she had all the elements that you would expect from an antagonist in a teen novel and yet I couldn’t help but fall in love with her hard-headedness and sass. She was a character I expected to hate but she actually ended up being one of my favorites in the book. Ryan (SAH-WOON) was a good love interest for Daisy, as he wasn’t clingy or obsessive (which is SO not cute) and he went along with Daisy’s plans because he was a good friend. Daisy’s sisters (Rose and Poppy) were also likable and fun characters. All the characters in this book had a lot of depth to me and that is something that I really value in teen books these days, because honestly we really have a lot of crappy novels out there.

The plot was somewhat predictable but fun anyways! It had a few unexpected twists and turns but overall it wasn’t really that surprising to me. What I really adored about this book was the premise of a supernatural town, psychics, and mystery. I felt that the concept of this book (while not exactly totally new) was refreshing in the genre of paranormal romance! I liked the fact that there were a few subplots that presented mysteries for future books in the series. The whole book had a very original vibe and fun mood throughout and it was definitely worth the read!

If you are looking for a refreshing, fun read this summer, I definitely recommend this! It was full of mystery and romance and had good characters. The reading level was fairly easy but it didn’t feel like a pre-teen book, but rather a book for teenagers. I actually got this book from the library and devoured the series in 2 days, but I ended up buying the books again on my Nook  because they were so cute and well written and I wanted my own copies! This is definitely a lighter, fluffier, and faster read but it is worth every penny!

Want me to review a specific book? Let me know! Post a comment or email me!

youngadultbookmuncher@gmail.com