Saturday, July 28, 2012

Today on the blog, I have the pleasure of featuring Susan Dennard's debut novel Something Strange and Deadly, which was just released on Tuesday from HarperTeen.  For my stop on the Something Strange and Deadly Blog Tour, hosted by Shane at Itching for Books, I'm reviewing the book and dream casting the novel for you guys.  There's also a giveaway for a SIGNED copy of the novel at the end of this post!  But first, here's a little about the author:

Susan Dennard is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is a writer turned marine biologist turned writer again. Among the traits she shares with her heroine Eleanor are a weakness for Shakespearean quotes, a healthy appetite for baked goods, and an insatiable curiosity. Sadly, Susan does not get to wear a corset or wave a parasol on a daily basis. She lives in Germany with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads. Something Strange and Deadly is her debut novel.

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Title:  Something Strange and Deadly
Author:  Susan Dennard
Series:  1st book in the Something Strange and Deadly series
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Publication Date:  July 24, 2012
Source:  ARC from publisher
Purchase:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks 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 their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

I love zombie novels, be they scary and gory or just tragic and sad.  Even better if you combine all of those elements.  And that's exactly what Susan Dennard accomplished with Something Strange and Deadly.
Dennard has combined the elegance and industrialization of the Victorian era with the grotesqueness of the walking dead to create a world that was both frightening and intriguing.  The first-person narrative allowed me to explore the streets of 19th century Philadelphia right along with Eleanor as she searched for her missing brother.  The story was fast-paced and well-evolved, and though it was not suspenseful in the way that I had hoped, there were plenty of zombie-killing sequences to keep me entertained.
Characterization can make or break a novel for me.  If I don't feel at least some connection to the characters and what they are going through, I'm more likely to have a less than favorable opinion of the story as a whole.  The opposite is also true.  Sometimes the characters are so solidly written, so meticulously developed, that I'm able to overlook other elements of the story that might have otherwise bothered me, such as the lack of mystery and suspense.  The characters in this novel are in the latter category.
Take Eleanor Fitt of the Philadelphia Fitts, for example:  she's a young, well-bred society woman who is to be married off to the first available man who comes along so that her mother may avoid the poor house.  But no one asks Eleanor if this is what she wants.  She bites her tongue and obeys her mother, biding her time till her brother returns and saves her from this plight.  Assuming he does return.  The underlying motivation for nearly every one of Eleanor's misguided actions and indiscretions is finding her brother.  Elijah makes her feel normal and whole in a world where she does not quite belong.  Eleanor has always known she didn't quite fit with high society, but after deep reflection and upon hearing "Miss Fitt" one too many times, the realization of just how much she doesn't belong really hits her.  Miss Fitt = misfit.  Such a clever moniker for such a clever girl.  Quick-witted and sharp-tongued -- "I could keep quiet.  But that didn't mean I would." (p. 89 of ARC) -- Eleanor is the kind of person I want beside me when the Zombie Apocalypse arrives.
In keeping with the theme of ostracism, Eleanor enlists the help of the Spirit-Hunters in her search for Elijah.  The band of outcasts is hesitant to help Eleanor until they learn that Elijah's disappearance is somehow involved with the reawakened Dead.  Joseph, the leader of the Spirit-Hunters, is a gentleman who handles himself with dignity and grace.  Daniel, his right-hand man, is the opposite.  He may be hot-headed and callous, but he is quite the inventor.  (And quite dashing, too!)  Jie is a Chinese girl, slightly older than Eleanor, who dresses as a boy, not only so that she may work with the Spirit-Hunters, but also to avoid suffering dresses and corsets and the oppression that comes with being a young women, in her society or in Eleanor's.  Together, the three have followed a powerful Necromancer from Chicago to Philadelphia.  Tracking down the Necromancer and stopping him is their primary objective, but seeing as how Eleanor has proven herself helpful and her brother does seem to be involved somehow, they agree to assist her in her search.
A slew of bad decisions, a heaping helping of zombie attacks, and a bittersweet romance all make for one exciting read.  But the decisions aren't of the cringe-worthy variety, the zombie attacks aren't terribly disgusting, and the romance takes a backseat to the real action.  It's really quite good and artfully told, considering this is the author's debut novel.  And what a sensational debut it is.  I almost wish I had time to re-read it now so that I could pick up on the nuances and details I missed on my race to the finish line the first time around.  It's a zombie novel, but it's not of the grossly exaggerated and vomit-inducing type…at least I didn't think so.  So, if you can handle a little descriptive grossness and prefer a story that doesn't focus primarily on romance, this book might be for you.

Rating:  Photobucket 1/2

Okay, so, I don't usually dream cast novels myself.  Honestly, I don't want the books I love to be turned into movies, so while I'm reading, I'm not envisioning any actors portraying the characters I'm reading about.  But I thought it would be fun to give this a try, anyway, so I headed over to IMDb to start sorting through headshots.  (It wasn't all work...I did get to search for the perfect Daniel, after all.  :D)

Mia Wasikowska
(Alice in Wonderland)
Name: Eleanor Abigail Fitt
Age: 16
Position: Young Lady of High Society
Favorite Food: Buttered toast
Weapon of Choice: Parasol
Favorite Book: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
Strengths: Brave, Clever
Weaknesses: Curiosity, Impulsiveness

 (Alternates:  Teresa Palmer, Anna Sophia Robb)

Benjamin Stone
(TV's The Nine Lives of Chloe King)

Name: Daniel Patrick Sheridan
Age: 19
Position: Inventor for the Spirit-Hunters
Favorite Activity: Experimenting with new inventions
Favorite Book: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Strengths: Resourceful, loyal
Weaknesses: Short-tempered, secretive

(Alternates:  William Moseley, Max Irons)

Ellen Wong
(Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)
Name: Jie Chen
Age: 19
Position: Bodyguard and “muscle” for the Spirit-Hunters
Favorite Activity: Beating up the Dead
Weapon of Choice: Baseball Bat
Strengths: Fearless, Agile
Weaknesses: Quick to judge, Gruff

(Alternate:  Jessica Lu)


Anthony Mackie
(Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,
The Adjustment Bureau)
Name: Joseph-Alexandre Boyer
Age: 24
Position: Leader of the Spirit-Hunters
Favorite Activity: Blasting the Dead back to the spirit realm
Favorite Accessory: Top hat
Strengths: Dependable, Strong leader
Weaknesses: Unyielding

(Images courtesy of IMDb, character descriptions from book website.)

So, if you've read the novel already, what do you think about these picks or any of the alternates I have listed?  I just think Mia would be fantastic as Eleanor, don't you?!?

Alright, alright.  I know what you're really here for.  :)  THE GIVEAWAY!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and happy reading!



  1. I am so excited to read this title. It sounds like it has so many things I absolutely love!

  2. I LOVE Ellen Wong! Great blog.

  3. Excellent review! Glad you liked the novel. Also, really amazing picks. I can imagine these wonderful actors portraying each role exceptionally well.

    Thank you for participating!

  4. I'm really liking those casting picks!

  5. Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. I'm excires for this one! Thanks for the giveaway :)

  7. I've heard such great things about this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

  8. Sounds interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  9. I have been waiting for this book to come out so I could read it. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  10. This sounds like a great read,especially for the summer's end.


  11. Thank you for this wonderful giveaway!!

    - Beckie

  12. This sounds like a great read and I think you did a great job with dream casting! Your Daniel is perfect, I was so sad when the took Chloe King off the air, because I loved watching him!!

    april yedinak

  13. Thanks for the giveaway!
    Can't wait to read this book.

  14. This sounds like a great read!!! Thanks for the chance to win

  15. Sounds like a great book! Can't wait to read - like the suggestions for which actor would play the role :)

  16. Can't wait to read this one! Thanks for hosting this!

  17. Fantastic giveaway! So want this book! Found you on Goodreads, then here.

  18. I think I love your casting choices! Though I haven't read my copy of this yet. But I love them anyway!

  19. I not only want to read this, but now I want to see a movie version!

  20. Thanks for the amazing giveaway!
    <3 Tobi

  21. WOW, that is an AWESOME CAST. Seriously! Plus, you picked 2 people I usually pick. ;)

    Thank you, thank you for reading/reviewing SS&D and taking the time to share your casting! I appreciate it so much!

  22. Great cast! Aptly named the dream cast!! :)
    Thanks for the great giveaway!


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