Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Something Strange and Deadly

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Something Strange and Deadly

YA book review
Review of
Something Strange and Deadly
by Susan Dennard

Published by HarperTeen
on July 24, 2012

Source: won the ARC in an Epic Reads contest.


My summary: It's 1876 in Philadelphia and Eleanor Fitt has a lot on her mind. Eleanor's father's death has plunged the Fitts into dire financial straits and Eleanor's mother is shoving her daughter onto the marriage market. Eleanor's brother, a scholar of rare artifacts, has gone missing.  Oh, and one more little thing. Corpses are rising from their graves all over town. When a zombie shows up with a cryptic message from Eleanor's brother, she seeks the help of the Spirit Hunters, an unconventional trio hired to protect the city from the undead.

My take: Overall, I really enjoyed Something Strange and Deadly. My regular blog readers know that I'm not very fond of zombies. And while I love books set in the Victorian era and like the idea of steampunk, I must confess that extensive descriptions of gadgets and how they work can make my eyes glaze over. 

But neither the zombie action nor the steampunk gadgetry overpower this story. In fact, I'd say that the first three-quarters of Something Strange and Deadly reads more like historical fiction: marriageable daughter, meddling mother, confining corsets, etc. In fact, in my reviewing notes, I wrote that I sort of wished this book could be a little more dark and suspenseful. Yes, you read that correctly:  I, Jen, wished that this book had more zombie action. We'll get back to that later...

I loved the setting of the book, loved the idea of steampunk set in the United States rather than Victorian London, loved the way the 1876 Centennial Exposition was cleverly woven into the plot. Joseph and Jie, two of the Spirit Hunters, were really interesting characters, and I'd like to see more of them.

There's a rather half-hearted love triangle as Eleanor divides her attention between Clarence, the man her mother wants her to marry, and Daniel, one of the Spirit Hunters. But I liked the fact that Eleanor was more preoccupied with walking corpses than stolen kisses. Eleanor is determined to find out what happened to her brother Elijah. The answer was, for me, fairly predictable. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for figuring everything out. Then something completely unexpected happened.

The last quarter of Something Strange and Deadly became very dark in tone. All of a sudden, there was this whoa, did that really happen kind of stuff. I mean, I remember a scene like that in a David Fincher movie on cable, but I was not expecting it here. (I realize some of you are probably thinking, "Well, Jen, you got what you wished for." Yep. I did!)

I have to love an author who can surprise me like that, so I do think I'll read book two in this series, A Darkness Strange and Lovely. Will it be too dark for me? I'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, YA readers who love history, alternate history, American history, and unconventional characters should definitely try this book! 

38 comments:

  1. IdK...I think the zombies are starting to win you over!

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    1. No, way, Eliza. Not true at all!
      *reaches out with rotting arm to grab Eliza's neck*

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    2. I played a video game with zombies in it...screamed like a 2 yr old, and they weren't even fast zombies!

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  2. I thought the story was pretty predictable too and I really liked Daniel, he was just sweet at heart. I know I'll want to check out the second book!

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    1. I was not a huge fan of either of her love interests -- hoping for a new guy in book two!!

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  3. I'm not really a big fan of zombies but lately I've been thinking about giving them a chance. This book sounds pretty interesting (except for all the info that makes your eyes glaze over) so I may give this book a chance. Great review! :)

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    1. Don't worry -- this one did NOT have a lot of gadgetry. I mean, I'm not against gadgetry, I just don't like when that seems to take over the plot... And some readers may definitely disagree with that.

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  4. You do make me want to read this! lol I am touch and go on historical fiction... and zombies but this might be something I can read. I am definitely curious to find out! Great review! :)

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    1. It's a really interesting mix of historical and horror. It was a smart book, even if I wished it had been a bit more consistent in tone. And with better love interests :)

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  5. I really need to train my brain NOT to start jumping to conclusions and to stop trying to guess the entire plot from the beginning of a book. I ruin a lot of them for myself. :( Either that, or this book was as predictable as I thought it was. I didn't even think that twist was surprising. Just too many hints given throughout the story, I suppose. Still, I loved all the other aspects of this novel, so I believe I still rated it fairly high. Great review...I'm glad you're going to give the second book a chance. =)

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    1. I think it's an occupational hazard of avid reading and blogging. When you read hundreds of books a year, you start to see patterns. I mean, there are only so many plot variations.

      Ashelynn and I were tweeting abut this the other day -- no one in my family wants to watch TV or movies with me because I can often predict the entire plot after watching the first quarter of a show. Many movies are incredibly formulaic.

      I guess that's why I'm so delighted when a plot twist actually surprises me. So while I thought the villain in this one was really obvious, I did not see that ending coming at all!!!!!

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  6. I'm happy you liked this one, Jen! I've been eyeing it for a while -- it has such a pretty cover! But I'm like you -- not quite on the zombie bandwagon yet. I think I prefer darker zombies, though. I'll have to check this one out!

    Great review!

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    1. Well, I'm thinking that book two will be darker for sure. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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  7. I am super excited to read this book. I'm glad to hear you liked it!! Great review!!

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    1. I know, are you surprised, you zombie queen????

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  8. I'm glad you liked this book and I agree there should have been more zombies but I bet Susan Dennard is just teasing us for the next books. I too love that Eleanor was more focused on finding her brother and defeating the zombies and spirit but I so need more Daniel because there is still so much we don't know about him. I was also very impressed with how much research went into this story, it seriously felt like I was there in Philly with El and the Hunters. I am majorly excited for this series and definitely can't wait for A Darkness Strange and Lovely.

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    1. Yes. As historical fiction, I loved it. The setting was original and really well-researched. And I'm shocked that I wanted more zombies, but the book really needed more, I think!
      Can't wait to see what the next book brings!

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    2. This was my first zombie book, they usually don't intrigue me but I was very impressed.

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  9. This sounds really good. I still have yet to read a zombie book but I'll get there eventually! lol Great review, makes me want to read it more, <3 historical fiction!

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    1. If you love historical fiction, then definitely try this one. The zombie aspect is really not that bad....

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  10. Great review! I'm sort meh about zombies but I do like steampunk. I've got this book sitting on my bed as my next in line to read. For some reason I just couldn't bring myself to start it and your review makes me want to go home just so I can find out what happens in the last quarter of the book. Thanks again!

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  11. I entered giveaways for this book.. But zombies? YIKES.

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  12. I was never a big zombie fan either, but then I read this book and well I'm beginning to change my mind.

    Great review

    Teresa @ Readers Live A Thousand Lives

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    1. I'm slowly easing my way into the zombie genre....

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  13. Sometimes there are books that show up everywhere and I stop reading reviews about them, because I keep seeing the same thing, but I always read yoru reveiws and you always end up saying something fresh. I think I might check this out. I'm just getting in to steampunk and I like early American History. Although, if I'm being honest, we're still pretty much in early American History.

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    1. If you like American History, definitely try this one. For me, the setting was a highlight. And just the right touch of steampunk for me.

      And yeah, that's me. My motto: "Fresh. Honest. But nice."

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  14. Love that you liked the book Jen! I'm really getting into the zombie gerne after reading This Is Not A Test! Great Review! :) Ooh and Steampuck?? 0_0 Yes! :))

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  15. I need to get off my butt and read this one--I love dark, steampunk, and zombies, and you make this sound like a lot of fun! Thanks for the review. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  16. No zombies for me.

    I do enjoy Steampunk, but I need to be able to visualize the gadgets & machines without my brain shutting down & my eyes glazing over.

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    1. This book is very light on the zombies.
      And I skim over the gadgetry parts. Don't judge me!

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  17. Okay, now I reeeally wanna read this book! I have never liked a zombie book before, but i haven't really read any... (Dearly departed's sitting on my shelf though. :P) Though I gotta say, your review just made my expectations for this book higher!

    And steampunk's not THAT bad... There are some good ones, like The Girl in the Steam Corset and The Infernal Devices... and yep, that's pretty much the only steampunk books I've read. :P

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    1. I haven't read Dearly Departed. That may be too zombified for me. Though I'm getting more into zombies all the time!

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    2. Oh, yeah, LOVED Clockwork Angel. SSaD definitely has some parallels -- the missing brother and the unconventional spirit hunters.

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  18. I've only read one book with zombies and one that was steampunk, and those were actually both the same book: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. And I really enjoyed it! Although I don't know how much of a zombie fan I'll actually be, I have several zombie books on my TBR list. But I do think I'll enjoy Steampunk. This one sounds really good, and I'm glad you enjoyed it even though you really don't like zombies! And I love how you thought you had it all figured out and then you were wrong! I love it when that happens to me! :D Great review!

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  19. I enjoyed this, but more zombies would have been nice, awesome review!

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