Friday, August 8, 2014

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly #1) by Susan Dennard | Review

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly #1) by Susan Dennard | ReviewSomething Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange and Deadly #1
Published by Harper Teen on July 24, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 388
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
4 Stars

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.

picadillyblueSomething Strange and Deadly was one of the series on my list to start and attempt to finish this year.  I’ve had Something Strange and Deadly on my shelf since before the book was published but I never got around to actually reading it until now.  The hype for this series is definitely warranted.  Something Strange and Deadly is a unique, entertaining, and thoroughly addicting story.

Eleanor is an extremely feisty and smart heroine.  She is unique to heroines in YA these days but especially in heroines from her time period.  She stands out among everyone she knows and while some might consider it a bad thing, I considered it one of her best qualities.  She is not afraid to speak her mind and go after what she wants.  When her brother, Elijah, goes missing she sets out to find help from the Spirit-Hunters, certain that the necromancer tormenting Philadelphia has her brother.  The group of Spirit-Hunters are made up of the classy Joseph, the quirky Jie, and the sarcastic Daniel.  Daniel is rude, outlandish, and rather odd but that didn’t stop me from completely falling in love with him.  He lacked manners but he made up for that in other ways.  Joseph and Jie added a certain flair to the group of Spirit-Hunters and they all brought something unique to the book.  Even Clarence and Allison Wilcox were interesting additions to the story although I would have enjoyed a bit more backstory to Allison.  She came up a little short compared to everyone else.

The story is fast-paced and pulse-pounding from the very first page.  I read straight through the book in one day.  I haven’t been that captivated by a book in quite some time.  While Eleanor’s escapades weren’t entirely plausible, they were fun to read about.  Eleanor was always escaping from places to meet the Spirit-Hunters and I felt that she probably wouldn’t have gotten away with that for long in the time period she lived in.  However, that is a minor complaint of mine.

The ending completely surprised me and actually brought tears to my eyes.  Every time I thought I figured something out, a new secret would pop up and I definitely could not figure out how things were going to tie together.  I was pleased that the story tied up rather well and while it left me eager for the second book, it wasn’t a horrible cliffhanger.

Overall, Something Strange and Deadly brings something new to both the historical fiction genre as well as the horror genre.  Susan Dennard has a promising start with this debut novel.

What others are saying about Something Strange and Deadly:

Cuddlebuggery Book Blog’s review: :”Overall, this was a great read and I strongly anticipate the next one!”

A Page of Heaven’s review: “Something Strange and Deadly was a rather okay book; my feelings for it ranged from love to content to majorly annoyed.”

The Flyleaf Review’s review: “An original blend of historical, paranormal, and a slight touch of steampunk, Something Strange and Deadly is an impressive package to savor.”

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith | Review

Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith | ReviewSekret by Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #1
Published by Roaring Brook Press on April 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 337
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
5 Stars

An empty mind is a safe mind.
Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

picadillyblueI picked up Sekret, Lindsay Smith’s debut novel, hoping for a good historical novel with some hints of intrigue and romance.  What I got was something so much better!  Lindsay Smith puts a whole new spin on the Cold War and spies both Russia and the United States.

The characters really make Sekret so amazing.  Each character is so complex and amazingly well-developed, especially for the first book in a new series.  Yulia is a very family focused young girl who just so happens to have psychic abilities that the KGB would like to exploit.  She’s a strong, independent girl but her family is both her biggest blessing and her biggest weakness.  She will do anything to protect them, including using her abilities for the KGB.  However, her morals never change, no matter what she is forced to do.  She learns to cope with her job with the KGB but she will not stop trying to get away.  She’s feisty and smart and such a wonderful main character.  The other psychics in the employ of the KGB are all very different people.  Some of them are forced to be there, others are there to please their family (also members of the KGB.)  Yulia connects with two very different boys, one who is forced to be there and the other who chose to be there.  Sergei and Valentin were both great characters but in very different ways.  From the start, Valentin wanted out of the KGB and he was willing to do anything to leave.  He and Yulia originally bonded over their shared hatred but that wasn’t all they had in common.  They quickly grew to become friends and watching their relationship develop was so fun.  Sergei was easygoing and funny.  He helped lighten the mood of the book, that’s for sure.  It was clear from the start that he wanted more than friendship from Yulia but friendship is what he got.  That friendship forced him to finally look at what his life was like and Sergei really grew as a person throughout the course of the book.

Villains aren’t usually as good as Rostov, the head of the psychic division of the KGB.  He was supremely creepy.  He was willing to do whatever it took to restore Stalinist Russia.  He is a cold blooded killer but the worst part is that nobody knows it and nobody can prove it.  His ability as a scrubber (as Yulia calls him) allows him to erase things from people’s minds.  Even if someone saw him murder someone, he could just erase and they would be none the wiser.  It’s a truly scary thought to wonder if you’ve seen or done something but not be able to remember it.  Yulia must go through that feeling many times throughout the course of Sekret.

The story takes time to get into but it’s worth it once you make it past the more informative first chapters.  The first few chapters are just spent building the world and explaining the abilities that people find themselves with.  I will admit that it’s a little dull and made for some slow reading but, like I said, it’s worth it once you get past those chapters.  This truly is an espionage thriller.  The US and Russia are in the space race and the KGB is determined to help Russia stay ahead of the race but they can’t do that if the US manage to steal their plans.  When the psychic division of the KGB discover that the US spies are also employing a scrubber like Rostov, the stakes become even higher.  It’s a pulse pounding race to the finish and there will be plenty of shocking revelations for readers throughout Sekret.

Overall, Sekret is one of the most thrilling, unique historical fiction novels I’ve read in recent times.  I look forward to continuing this series and I highly recommend this debut from Lindsay Smith.

What others are saying about Sekret:

Allodoxophobia’s review: “For me, rarely does every aspect of a book come together as seamlessly as it does in Sekret.”

Step Into Fiction’s review: “Sekret was an enjoyable YA sci fi spy novel that may have you checking rooms for bugs and wondering who is listening to your thoughts.”

I Swim For Oceans’ review: “Overall though, I quite enjoyed Sekret, despite a few hiccups along the way.”