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!