Thursday, September 18, 2014

Series Review: Something Strange and Deadly; A Darkness Strange and Lovely; Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly, #1)
Genre: YA Horror > Necromancers, Steampunk, Historical Fiction
Setting: Philadelphia during the Great Exhibition, 1876
Characters: Eleanor Fitt, Daniel Sheridan, Joseph Boyer, Elijah Fitt, Jie Chen, Clarence Wilcox, Allison Wilcox, Marcus Duval, Oliver
Copyright: 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Hardcover: 388 pages
Axie's Rating:  3 out of 5
There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia...

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family as fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walkers by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor... from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. An now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.
Cover Envy: The model looks like Leigh Bardugo.

Read this series if you like:
**Susan Dennard's blog. It's really awesome & I definitely recommend it to aspiring writers.
**YA books with these genre elements: zombies, steampunk, necromancy, romance, mystery
**YA Historical Fiction set in in the 1800's. Book 1 takes place in Philadelphia, Book 2 in Paris, & Book 3 in Egypt.
**Upper class-working class romance. The love interest is a working class inventor.
**First Person-tense narration w/ a female protagonist. The book is very much in Eleanor's "voice", which is very distinctive. She has a somewhat over-the-top English Miss personality (even though she's American). Like she says "daresay" a lot and speaks without contractions.
**A Join the Team plot. Eleanor's a somewhat ordinary teenage girl (in the 19th century) who teams up with the Spirit-Hunters to fight zombies.

A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Something Strange and Deadly, #2)

Genre: YA Horror > Necromancers, Steampunk, Historical Fiction
Setting: Paris, 1876
Characters: Eleanor Fitt, Daniel Sheridan, Joseph Boyer, Elijah Fitt, Oliver, Jie Chen
Copyright: 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Hardcover: 406 pages
Axie's Rating: 3 out of 5
With her brother dead and her mother on the verge of insanity, Eleanor Fitt is utterly alone. Even the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and the handsome Daniel—have fled to Paris. So when Eleanor begins to hear the vicious barking of hounds and see images of haunting yellow eyes, she fears the worst—that the Dead, and the necromancer Marcus, are coming for her.

To escape and search out the Spirit-Hunters, Eleanor boards a steamer bound for France. There she meets Oliver, a young man who claims to have known her brother. Though friendly, Oliver entices Eleanor with necromancy and black magic, yet as long as she can resist his powerful temptation, she'll be fine. But when she arrives in Paris, she finds that the Dead have taken over the city...and there's a whole new evil lurking. With the body count rising, Eleanor is forced to make a deadly decision that will go against everything the Spirit-Hunters stand for.

In Paris, there's a price for this darkness strange and lovely...and it may have Eleanor paying with her life.
This book introduces the third main character in the series (after Eleanor and Daniel)--Oliver, the demon. If you liked the first book, you'll undoubtedly like this one, since it's more of the same, except in Paris, France. 

Strange and Ever After (Something Strange and Deadly, #3)
Genre: YA Horror > Necromancers, Steampunk, Historical Fiction
Setting: Egypt, 1876
Characters: Eleanor Fitt, Daniel Sheridan, Oliver, Joseph Boyer, Marcus Duval, Jie Chen, Allison Wilcox
Copyright: 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Hardcover: 400 pages
Axie's Rating: 2 out of 5
He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.

With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.
Cover Envy: This cover is by far the best one in the series. The makeup, jewelry and gown are gorgeous, and her pose is fierce. The heavy eyeshadow is very Cleopatra-esque in the spirit of the book (it's mostly set in Egypt).

Alright, here is where I'll get a little rant-y, because I did not enjoy this last book. In fact, I kind of wish Susan Dennard would just write a completely different last book and call this one a dud. Eleanor was extremely unlikable in this book, and the main "theme" or take-away of this novel (& series, probably) did NOT sit right with me AT ALL; anyway, here goes nothing...

Because of events (Marcus murdering both her brother & mother) in the past, Eleanor, understandably, wants to kill Marcus. Also, she's grappling with her burgeoning necromancy powers, which her friends clearly disapprove of, with the exception of Oliver, her demon. Those are the main character conflicts for Eleanor: her revenge & her dark powers. Okay, those are totally fine character conflicts; HOWEVER, Eleanor goes about dealing with them in a really irritating way, aka, she makes some super selfish decisions. There's definitely a not-so-fine line between someone who's independent and free-thinking versus someone who inherently just cares about themselves.  A lot of YA books have a storyline that focuses on a young woman fulfilling her dreams and desires in a world that makes it difficult for her to (which is a GREAT story line). I think this story line was trying to achieve that, but sort of failed...

I don't know how many times the words "my" or "mine" were italicized, but holy crap. Eleanor's always emphasizing that it's "my" powers which save everyone. It's "my" life, so she can do whatever she wants regardless of hurting others. Oliver is "my" demon. Daniel is "my" inventor. Jie is "my" friend. I have nothing against the word "my"....but it really began to sound like "me, me, me", which just made me mad at Eleanor for...seeing the world in such a self-absorbed way. 

She just makes a ton of selfish decisions in this book, which are just infuriating....because...the book is never like "but she learned from her lessons". It's like....oh yeah, she's selfish, but hey, she's special cause she's a "misfit" (her name is Miss Fitt) and therefore special and different and better than ordinary girls. And I'm like....just because you're powerful and independent doesn't mean you're better than anyone else...blahhhh. And just because you've traveled to Egypt doesn't mean you can teach about Egyptian history....omg [this is what she wants to do at the end of the book].

1 star because I read the whole thing. Another star because I super admire & respect Susan Dennard, as a human being.

Concept: I think most aspiring YA authors have read Susan Dennard's super informative and easy-to-use blog. In her "how I got published" post, she speaks about how her querying process was fairly straight-forward b/c she was able to "sell" her hook. It's a great set-up; a YA Steampunk novel set in 19th century New England w/ zombies. It's a great concept.
Main Character: Not including the 3rd book [see my epic rant above], I think Eleanor's a pretty straightforward YA heroine. She's an independent girl trying to break away from the constraints of her class and society's gender-roles. She's coming into her own as a necromancer, and she falling in love with a cute working class boy who also fights zombies.
Love Interest: Daniel Sheridan. I really like Daniel. I haven't read the mini prequel from his point-of-view, A Dawn Most Wicked, but of the characters in the book, he's my favorite. He's brave & loyal. He says "I reckon" a lot...he knows how to fly an airship.
Favorite Secondary Character: Oliver. He's definitely the most complicated of the characters. His loyalties are...suspect, which makes him intriguing. 
Diversity: Joseph is a Creole... Jie is Chinese. They're sort of defined by their race, so I'm not sure how diverse this is, but whatever.
Villain: Marcus Duval. The book revolves around the villain. Who's actually not that scary, mostly because the books don't have that "horror" feeling even if there are zombies.
World Building: It's thin, but understandable. The zombies are super not-scary. They shamble along...and are easily killed through electric pulses or "magic". Eleanor does all her magic by saying "sum veritas", which means "I am life" (or "I am truth").
Writing: Because it's very much in the "voice" of Eleanor, I'm not a fan of the writing. Dennard uses the word "So" a lot to begin a sentence, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.
Recommendations: For a darker YA historical w/ some sci-fi/fantasy elements, try out Megan Shepherd's The Madman's Daughter. For a fun YA steampunk novel, check out Gail Carriger's Etiquette & Espionage.
Final Thoughts: I suggest reading the first book (and if you like it, the second), but skip the third. Which is how I feel about the Divergent series and the Hunger Games series, as well, so it's not that harsh of a criticism. I think I'm going to do a blog post on an Author writing for Fans versus an Author writing for....other reasons, like Sensationalism or To Prove a Point Say Something Thematically Relevant. The last book was not written for the fans. There is not a happy ending. I was okay with the unhappy ending b/c I'm not overtly attached to the characters....but IF I was a super fan, I'd be legitimately upset. And not all books have to have happy endings; however, I do think all books should have satisfying endings.
Overall Series Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Queen of Zombie Hearts [Release Date: September 30, 2014]

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that features upcoming novel releases.

The Queen of Zombie Hearts (White Rabbit Chronicles, #3)
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance > Zombies
Setting: Alabama
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Harcover: 464 pages
Release Date: September 30, 2014
In the stunning conclusion to the wildly popular White Rabbit Chronicles, Alice "Ali" Bell thinks the worst is behind her. She's ready to take the next step with boyfriend Cole Holland, the leader of the zombie slayers…until Anima Industries, the agency controlling the zombies, launches a sneak attack, killing four of her friends. It's then she realizes that humans can be more dangerous than monsters…and the worst has only begun. 

As the surviving slayers prepare for war, Ali discovers she, too, can control the zombies…and she isn't the girl she thought she was. She's connected to the woman responsible for killing—and turning—Cole's mother. How can their relationship endure? As secrets come to light, and more slayers are taken or killed, Ali will fight harder than ever to bring down Anima—even sacrificing her own life for those she loves.
Why I Want to Read This Book: These books are just good 'ol fun. Ignore the covers...they're the worst (although, admittedly, this cover is the best of the three). Also, ignore the allusions to Alice in Wonderland...b/c...they don't make sense. Other than that, these books are the best. The plot follows a bunch of zombie-killing teenagers. There's snark, angst, lots of sexual tension, gore, and more! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they have a different theme for bloggers to post their top tens about, and this week we’re listing our…

Top Ten Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

This was a decently hard list to put together, mostly because I've read at least two of every author who I actually do like. Of course there are the authors I only read one book from, but if I didn't like their style of writing, why would I want to read another one, you know? But anyway, after I realized that there were a lot of authors I've only read the first book in a series that I never got around to completing, this list was a ton of fun to make :)

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)
1.  Jenny Han
I've read: To All the Boys I've Loved Before
I want to read: P.S. I Still Love You
The synopses for Jenny Han's other books don't appeal to me...but I really loved To All the Boys I've Loved Before. Check out my fangirl review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Don't Look BackWicked (A Wicked Saga, #1) The Dead List
I've read: Don't Look Back
I want to read: Wicked (December 2014),  The Dead List (March 2015)
Ah, I hopped on the Jennifer Armentrout train late, but now I'm eagerly anticipating her new series', including the self-pubbed Wicked Saga (set in New Orleans), as well as the standalone The Dead List coming from Disney-Hyperion, a contemporary thriller like Don't Look Back

Out of the EasyBetween Shades of Gray
I've read: Out of the Easy
I want to read: Between Shades of Gray & whatever else she writes
I loved Out of the Easy, the characters, the setting, the story....everything. It just breathed New Orleans in the 1950's. I really want to read Sepetys' debut, Between Shades of Gray.

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)The Dregs (The Dregs, #1)
I've read: Shadow & Bone
I want to read: Siege & Storm, Ruin & Rising, The Dregs (2015)
I really enjoyed Shadow & Bone, so it's just...time? keeping me back, or my daunting TBR pile. 

Legend (Legend, #1)Prodigy (Legend, #2)Champion (Legend, #3)The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)
I've read: Legend
I want to read: Prodigy, Champion, The Young Elites (October 2014)
Although I wasn't the hugest fan of Legend, I still liked the story and the characters. Plus, I met Marie Lu at ALA and she signed my copy of The Young Elites. She was super nice and I've already read some of the first pages of her new book--I loved it. 

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, #2)Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, #3)
I've read: Grace Mercy
I want to read: Dark Triumph, Mortal Heart (October 2014)
Assassin nuns in medieval France. Why have I not finished this series?

Mistwood (Mistwood, #1)Death Sworn (Death Sworn, #1)
I've read: Mistwood
I want to read: Death Sworn
Although I didn't love Mistwood, I think Cypess has talent as a fantasy writer. I'm excited to read Death Sworn.

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)
I've read: Shatter Me
I want to read: Unravel Me, Ignite Me
Although Mafi's writing can sometimes get ridiculous, it definitely has its moments of brilliance. I read Shatter Me when it first came out...and I remember thinking, man, I kind of like Warner better than Adam...Since then, I've read "spoilers" around the blogsophere that make me SUPER excited to finish this series ;)

Fire (Graceling Realm, #2)Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)
I've read: Fire
I want to read: Graceling, Bitterblue
I don't know what's wrong with me, considering Fire is one of my all-time favorite YA books and my favorite genre of all time is YA Fantasy...I think I'm afraid of the fact that once I've read Graceling and Bitterblue, I'll have read them...and the experience will be OVER.

The Oracle Glass
I've read: The Oracle Glass
I want to read: more books by her, in general
I love historical fiction  & The Oracle Glass is well-written, set in France during the reign of Louis XIV, has a strong-willed heroine and sweeping romance.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge IV

I saw this really cool reading challenge over at Jamie @ The World For the Reading, and thought, this is right up my alley! The Readers Imbibing Peril (or RIP) challenge is hosted by Carl @ Stainless Steel Droppings.

It's a super easy, low-commitment challenge, running from September 1 to October 31st. You just choose to read books from the following genres:

Dark Fantasy.

You can choose different challenges to complete, and I'm choosing:

Which is just reading two books from any of the above stated categories. Like I said, a super easy challenge.

These are the books I've challenged myself to read:
The Enemy (The Enemy #1)The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

If you're deciding to join the challenge, don't forget to link your blog!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dream Casting: Born Wicked; Star Cursed; Sisters' Fate by Jessica Spotswood

Here's my dream cast of Jessica Spotswood's Cahill Witch ChroniclesCheck out my review of the whole series: here.

Mia Wasikowska as Cate Cahill
Wasikowska is a perfect Cate. She's smart-looking, tall, and looks like leader. Cate is someone with charisma and presence, qualities I think Wasikowska has, at least on the screen.

Gaspard Ulliel as Finn Belastra
He looks good in glasses.

Emily Browning as Maura Cahill
Maura is a spit-fire. Emily Browning hasn't really played characters like Maura, but I definitely think she has the look, at least in this picture (a character photo for 2011's Sleeping Beauty).

Willow Shields as Tess Cahill
Willow Shields has been typecast as the little sister of all YA heroines. At least the ones who are blonde.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Elena
She's obviously dressed for the role in this picture (taken from 2013's bio-pic Belle). Elena is beautiful and fierce, both words I'd use to describe Mbatha-Raw.

Who would you cast for a film/t.v. series??

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stacking the Shelves: 9.13.14

Button  owned/made by Wilde Heart Book Blogs

Stacking the Shelves is a meme created by Tynga Reviews in which bloggers post photos and information on what books they've purchased/received/borrowed during the week!


Storm (Elemental, #1)
Storm by Brigid Kemmerer is FREE on Amazon Kindle this week!!! Thanks Kat @ Readiculousblog for turning me onto this :)

Hard copy:
The Caller (Shadowfell, #3)
The Caller by Juliet Mariller arrived in the mail this week! I've been waiting....FOREVER for this. Super excited!!! I want Flint and Neryn to finally be together...!!!

Library [links to goodreads]:
MarinaIn the End (In the After, #2)A Creature of MoonlightBetween the Spark and the Burn (Between, #2)

What's stacking your shelves this week??