Sunday, July 29, 2012

Something Strange and Deadly Blog Tour: Review, Interview & GIVEAWAY of Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly #1) by Susan Dennard

For my tour stop, I have a review of this amazing book, an interview with the lovely author, and a giveaway!

Goodreads rating: 4.06
ebook, 248 pages
Expected publication: July 24th 2012 by HarperTeen
Source: Edelweiss RC

 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.

In the world of YA steampunk zombies (which seems kind of like its own genre now), Something Strange and Deadly really lived up to my expectations. Our main character, Eleanor, is worried about her brother, as he's in Philadelphia and didn't come back on his train. There aren't just zombies now, but controlled zombies, who are being given orders by someone. Someone who will do anything to get what he wants. Eleanor thinks her brother is involved in it somehow, but the only way she can find out is by going to the Spirit-Hunters. And they don't have the best reputation. As soon as they move to another place, zombies seem to be causing trouble. Meanwhile, the general public has no idea how out of of control the zombie problem is getting. So Eleanor is immersed in this world of zombie-killing and bad-guy-finding. She has to make some sacrifices, and not everyone is going to like them.

I loved Eleanor. She's brave and so stubborn. And so is Daniel, our smart, dashing love interest. Eleanor and Daniel don't exactly like each other when they first meet. But as they're thrown together by Daniel's need to redeem himself and Eleanor's love for her brother, they begin to fall for each other. But, of course, they can't really be together. Daniel isn't exactly buddies with the government, and 1870's laws prohibit any public shows of affection. But that last part doesn't really matter, because Daniel and Eleanor don't have much of a chance to be in love: Eleanor's brother finally shows back up, and he's not the same person Eleanor used to know. Eleanor had so much to fight against in this book that you can't help feeling sorry for her. But she wouldn't be who she was if she didn't do everything to try and find her brother. This ends up putting other people she comes to care about at risk. She grows up really quickly and becomes cunning; nothing like the girl she used to be. But she'll end up losing people she loves because of it.

I fell in love with these characters. I liked that this wasn't dystopian, just in an alternate 1876. It made it more realistic, imagining it in the past. Dennard also brought in the steampunk part of this era, which I love. There are so many interesting inventions that we can't even imagine now. Inventions that could easily be turned against mankind, and the bad guy in this book finds a way to do that. One of the things that really kept me interested in this book is the science of it all. But there's also a paranormal element that was subtle, but still there. And I'm not talking about the zombies. You'll just have to read the book to see what I'm talking about. There were some good twists, and with that ending, I can't wait to see what happens next!

Me: Why did you pick that specific time period and place for Something Strange and Deadly?
Susan: Well, I've always been intrigued by steampunk/gaslamp stories from a purely aesthetic standpoint (soooo....prettyyyy....). Plus, some of my favorite classics were set in the late 19th century. I figured if I enjoyed reading about that time period, I'd enjoy researching it and writing about it. ;) Plus, I thought all the restrictions against women--both socially and with fashion!--would add a nice chunk of conflict to the story. So, after some preliminary searching, I settled on the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia as my setting. I loved the idea of the first American World's Fair in a city chockfull of history suddenly crawling with corpses!

Me: Zombies freak me out, but I find YA novels about them really intriguing. Why did you decide to pick zombies as your paranormal creature?
Susan: Because they freak me out too!! I thought if I was terrified, then I could probably transfer that fear onto the page. Plus, the whole idea of a heroine who must first learn to fight necromancy and corpses...and then eventually learn to use the magic and raise the dead herself--well, I just the juxtaposition of it!

Me: What was the hardest part about writing Something Strange and Deadly?
Susan: Honestly, the hardest part was believing in myself--dragging myself to the computer every day to write...and then rewrite...and then revise the book again. Making myself avoid looking at all the big deals everyone ELSE was getting and keeping my eyes on my own paper. Staying focused on the long game instead of racing to sell now-now-now. And just remembering that I loved this story--especially by the time I was on draft 12+--and that it was worth it to revise one more time.
Even now, self-doubt is the hardest part of the game. Reviews can be so harsh, and even when you try to avoid them, people will email you privately to tell you how much they just hated your book. ;) Fortunately, more people email privately to tell you how much they adored the book--and it's messages like those that keep me going. I wrote this story to move readers, and if I can do that with at least one person, then I've accomplished what I set out to do. That's an amazing feeling.

Me: What is your experience with getting your debut novel published?
Susan: It has been a constant learning experience, certainly! I had NO idea what to expect once I had an agent...then once I went on submissions, then once the book sold, and then after I finished revising. No one talks about what happens "after the book deal", so every new step--from copy edits to cover design to promotion--was totally new for me. One thing that really suprised me was how little control the author has. Very few people have any say with regards to their cover, their marketing plan, their store distribution, etc. I'm very zen about it now, but I have to admit: I wasn't very willing to give up the reigns at first! Lesson learned. ;)

Me: A love triangle or one true love? Why?
Susan: One true love! I think some people assume one of my characters is meant to form a love triangle, but--as they hopefully realize by the time they finish the book--he was never "right" for Eleanor. Eleanor never saw him as a possibility, and I always meant for a certain temperamental inventor to be Eleanor's one-and-only. Ahhh, temperamental inventors. Gotta love 'em.

Thanks for the great answers Susan!!

And now, for the giveaway!

Win a SIGNED copy of Something Strange and Deadly! This giveaway is US ONLY!


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

  2. Wonderful review, wonderful interview!

    Thank you for participating!

  3. Loved the interview! And the cover (more so the physical cover with it's foil and raised letters) is absolutely gorgeous. The gears worked in are so perfect. I'm surprised to find authors don't have much say in that, but it turned out so great.

  4. My friend highly recommended this to me, now I just need to get my hands on it. :)

  5. I love a good zombie book and this one sounds amazing! I will have to read it=) Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. I've had my eye on this book for a few weeks now and I've heard nothing but AMAZING things about it! I can't wait to check it out! :) Thanks for this awesome review, interview, and giveaway!

  7. This one looks great. Heard a lot of intriguing reviews so far.

  8. The girl on the cover looks like one of the women from the Dixie Chicks!! The one that plays the violin! Does anyone see it?
    Great review :).


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