Tag Archives: gothic

Review: Something Strange & Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange & Deadly

by Susan Dennard

Genre: YA Historical Steampunk Gothic Paranormal

Series: Something Strange & Deadly #1

Source: Purchased

Book Summary:

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.

book thoughts

I loved this book so much more than I thought I would. I mean, it sounded great, and I was hoping I’d enjoy it, but WOW. I LOVE this book! It’s the first thing I’ve read that has even put a dent in my Gemma Doyle withdrawal, even though the stories are quite different, despite both taking place in Victorian times and involving a heroine who can do magic and is attracted to a man below her station. I think that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Aside from the fact that both series are epic, of course. I’ve read a fair amount of books set in Victorian England, but this was my first set in Victorian America. It was great fun noting the differences. Eleanor’s family, for instance, is wealthy because her father ran a successful company; something that in Victorian England would have been looked down upon, since most wealthy English Victorians were born into their wealth and made money simply because they already possessed it. Young Victorian women in America also seemed to enjoy a great deal more freedom than their English counterparts, though both countries were of course restrictive.

The setting of 1876 Philadelphia was refreshingly unique. And I suppose it helps that I lived in Pennsylvania, so I actually know how to pronounce the world “Schuylkill”. I’ve never been all that into zombies, but I do find necromancy fascinating, so I loved that this book came at zombies from a necromancy angle – there was no infectious disease, the tedious “turning” of characters – there were just corpses animated by dark magic. I thought this was a really unique, interesting concept. The author also clearly did her research about necromancy, and about the 1876 International Centennial Exhibit. I think at one point she even referenced what page something was on in the pamphlet. It was this level of detail that made this “alternate history” world feel completely authentic. And I’d rather live in a world where magic is accepted as a normal part of the world, anyway, so these aspects greatly appealed to me. We also get to see a Victorian seance!

I loved the relationship between Eleanor and her brother, even if we didn’t see much of it. They were so clearly devoted to each other. I felt bad for Eleanor that her mother was so hard on her, though it explained her personality in many ways. Eleanor is a likeable heroine, but she has many flaws, and never apologizes for being who she is. I found this refreshing. I appreciated her curiosty as well, since I too have an insatiable curiosity. I also liked that every character had such depth, so many facets to their personality. Clarence Wilcox, Eleanor’s wealthy suitor, wasn’t a bad guy but wasn’t terribly likeable either. Daniel Sheridan, the young Spirit-Hunter with a troubled past whom Eleanor falls for is fiery and stubborn, yet also quite intelligent and emotional. Even Jie, the quintessential tomboy still retains some femininity.
Joseph Boyer, leader of the Spirit-Hunters, is a powerful magic-user, but possesses a quite gentle nature. I loved experiencing Eleanor’s adventures with the Spirit-Hunters as she searched for her brother, and watching the way the four of them worked together was highly entertaining. I definitely recommend this book. It’s a perfect summer read. Not that it can’t be read in another season, but the summer in Philadelphia setting, combined with the general mischief of the plot do seem well-suited to summer.


Grabby Paws: Strange & Ever After by Susan Dennard

Grabby Paws

“Grabby Paws” is my version of the Waiting on Wednesday meme hosted by Breaking The Spine that highlights upcoming releases that I can’t wait to get my paws on. 🙂

Today I have grabby paws for…


In the conclusion to the trilogy that Publishers Weekly called “a roaring—and addictive—gothic world,” Eleanor Fitt must control her growing power, face her feelings for Daniel, and confront the evil necromancer Marcus…all before it’s too late.

Susan Dennard will leave readers breathless and forever changed in the concluding pages of this riveting ride.

Why I have grabby paws…

Well first of all, it’s set in the Victorian Era and deals with magic! Yay! I’m not a huge zombie fan, but necromancy? Definitely. I generally like to wait until I have all three books in a trilogy before I read them but I’m getting ancy! Also, I was lucky enough to be accepted for the official tour! Look!

Strange & Ever After

Pretty! So anyway, I’m on the tour but alas! I do not have a print ARC. (I can’t do eARCS because I have over-sensitive eyes and no e-reader) I’m trying really hard to get a copy, so if anyone would be willing to trade with me I’d love you forever! My trade list is here.

Releases July 22nd

Grabby Paws: Chantress Alchemy by Amy Butler Greenfield & The Lovely and the Lost by Page Morgan

Grabby Paws

“Grabby Paws” is my version of the Waiting on Wednesday meme hosted by Breaking The Spine that highlights upcoming releases that I can’t wait to get my paws on. 🙂

Today I have grabby paws for…


Lucy races against time and magic in this sequel to the “richly and thoughtfully written” (Publishers Weekly) Chantress.

Lucy is the last Chantress, the only remaining girl who can sing magic into the world. Since she defeated the evil Lord Scargrave, England has changed—and not for the better. With crops failing and the people rebelling, Lucy is called urgently back to King Henry’s court. His Inner Council is convinced that making gold through alchemy will save England. But a critical element to the alchemical process has been stolen. Lucy is tasked with finding it with her magic… or else. And until she succeeds, the castle is on lockdown.

Court too has changed. Scargrave’s brutal Chantress-hunter has become King Henry’s closest advisor. Lucy’s beloved Nat has fallen out of favor and is shunned by his colleagues; their romance means trouble for both of them. Worst of all, something goes wrong with Lucy’s magic. The palace is a labyrinth, and there’s a monster at its heart — a monster who may have the power to defeat Lucy once and for all. 

Amy Butler Greenfield returns to the beguiling world of Chantress for a suspenseful tale of courtly intrigue, music, and magic in Chantress Alchemy.

Why I have grabby paws…

I’m still desperate to read the first book, but obviously I want this one too! Alternate history, magic through singing, royal intrigue. What more could one want?

Releases May 6th


I also have grabby paws for…


Ingrid and Gabby survived the Underneath. They saved their brother, Grayson, from a future of dark servitude and exposed a plot to undermine the Alliance. But danger still lurks in the streets of Paris, and the Dispossessed, perched on the city’s bridges and rooftops, might not be able to save their human wards this time.

Why I have grabby paws…

As with Chantress Alchemy, I still haven’t obtained the first book in this series, but of course I want both of them! This series reminds me a bit of the Gemma Doyle series, which I love, since it is a gothic involving the Victorian Era and the supernatural. I haven’t read that much gargoyle mythology but I find it really intriguing, especially given the Paris setting.

Releases May 13th

Grabby Paws: Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Grabby Paws

“Grabby Paws” is my version of the Waiting on Wednesday meme hosted by Breaking The Spine that highlights upcoming releases that I can’t wait to get my paws on. 🙂

(Grabby Paws is free for anyone to use, with a link back to me)

Today I have grabby paws for…

To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father’s island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

With inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is a tantalizing mystery about the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

Why I have grabby paws…

So silly me I thought this book was released a while ago, and now I find out it comes out January 28th. I’ve had the cover as my computer wallpaper since the cover reveal because it’s the most beautiful cover I have ever seen. It looks like a John William Waterhouse painting.


Plus, it’s a retelling of classic gothic horror, which I love. I don’t have The Madman’s Daughter yet, but I hope to have both of them soon.

Review: Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey

Ashes on The Waves

by Mary Lindsey

Genre: YA Fantasy, Paranormal, Gothic

Series: Standalone

Source: Gift from my amazing husband, who knows there is nothing more romantic than Annabel Lee

Book Summary:

Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.

With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make awager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial—and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling poem, “Annabel Lee,” Mary Lindsey creates a frighteningly beautiful gothic novel that glorifies the power of true love.

book thoughts

I didn’t think it possible, but this book actually exceeded my expectations. The expectations of a hopeless romantic goth girl poetess, mind you. So they were exponentially high. A book based on one of the best (and definitely the most romantic) poems ever written? I had to have it. Add on the ridiculous gorgeousness of the cover? No question.

I think the author took just the right amount of liberties with Poe’s ideas, not just Annabel Lee, but a number of Poe’s works. A Poe quote accompanies each chapter and sets the tone for the events that unfold. Lindsey understands well Poe’s use of setting as almost a character itself, and the choice of Dochas,  a remote island off the coast of Maine, free of modern conveniences like electricity and full of superstition and prejudice, is perfect. Even though these events technically unfold in a contemporary setting, the book has a definite old-world feel, and the contrast is superb.

Annabel (called Anna in the novel) is herself a member of the modern world, and understandably bewildered and horrified by the ways of the villagers of Dochas. A place where “husband throw their wives off of cliffs and no one does anything about it”. She is a breath of fresh air, with no tolerance for injustice or superstition. At first I expected Anna to be more of an archetype than a person, a flesh incarnation of the narrator Liam’s fantasy, but I am so glad that she turned out to be a real, authentic person in her own right. Liam, on the other hand, is a tragic victim of circumstance. He suffers paralysis of the left arm in a place where his disability is seen as a symptom of demonic possession, and he never questions this assertion. His childhood friendship with Anna was the one bright spot in his life, and he clings to it ever after, until the day the ne’er-do-well heiress is exiled to the island and long-ago friendship ignites into love.

I was also expecting insta-love (which I don’t have a problem with, as a general rule. I’ve experienced love at first sight) but I appreciated that the author let the relationship develop in its own time. It was fast and intense, but it was easy to understand the motivation behind the emotion. Anna is the affection and escape Liam has never allowed himself to wish for, and Liam cares for and respects Anna in a way no one else in her life ever has. But their budding romance is overshadowed by the villagers’ hatred of Liam, and by the supernatural creatures who hold dominion over Dochas: the Bean Sidhes, whose warning screams of murder interrupt the young lovers’ embraces, and the Na Fir Ghorm, whose malevolent tricks and beckonings serve to stir the villagers’ hatred ever more. The two competing groups make a wager on the strength of the couple’s love, with devastating consequences.

Sometimes-narrator Muireean, the young selkie whose selfless love for Liam leads her to try to help the couple, provides the comic relief, as she marvels at the strangeness of humans and human form. Her breezy narrative was a striking contrast to Liam’s intense, tortured narration. I never felt that Liam was over-the-top or too emotional – indeed, it was refreshing to see a male character embrace his feelings. Considering what a misery his life was, he could have been even more dramatic than he was. I especially appreciated how the author was realistic about his disability. I’m disabled myself so I can tell she did her research. When Liam descends a ladder while holding a candle, the difficulty with which this is done is touched upon, rather than skirted over. Liam has rudimentary assistive devices in his home and place of employment as well, which made his condition much more realistic.

The author uses every line of the poem, and the story unfolds with a pervasive sense of dread, even through lighter moments. As readers, we know what is coming and that it cannot be stopped. The addition of a mystery or two served to ratchet up the tension even more. The ending is tragic and beautiful, and allows for multiple interpretations. This is just as it should be, in my opinion, and I think Mr. Poe would be pleased.