Thursday, August 29, 2013

Something Strange and Deadly: Book Club Discussion #4

It's hard to imagine that this is the final week of Susan Dennard's SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY book club.  It kinda makes me feel a little like this:


But now, it's on to this week's question, the final question:

 “‘Eleanor, you have a choice,’ [Jie] said softly. ‘You always have a choice’” (p. 166, Something Strange & Deadly)
How do you think this quote relates to the overall theme of Something Strange and Deadly? Do you think Eleanor behaves as if she has a choice at the start of the book? What about at the end of the book? And do other characters behave as if they have a choice or do some see themselves as victims of circumstance? 

"You always have a choice" could've been the subtitle to SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY.  Every character, from Eleanor to Daniel, and Clarence to Elijah, all had choices of how they would continue their lives.  Whether they wanted the end results, each made their own decisions and dealt with the consequences.

At the beginning of the book, Eleanor had very little choice in how she could live her life.  With no family other than her mother (and no sight of Elijah anywhere), Eleanor must've felt like nothing she would ever do would matter, that her mother and society would always govern her life.  She was absolutely a victim of the era of which she lived.  It was when she met the rag-tag band of the Spirit-Hunters that Eleanor's life did a complete 180.  For the first time in her life, she saw a group of people who made their own decisions, who decided how they would live their lives, who didn't care what society thought of them.  Their strong-will and determination lit a fire in Eleanor that had been stirring far within her, and allowed her to believe in herself and her own future.  Even though at the end of the book, she bid farewell to her new group of friends, she knew she would never be the same person, that she finally had a choice, a say, in how her life could be lead.

The Spirit-Hunters were unlike any other characters in the book.  Although Joseph, Jie and Daniel had widely different personalities and backgrounds, each had a common trait: choice of mind.  Joseph, the strong-minded leader, allowed nothing to stand in his way.  Jie,(my favorite character in the series!) the strong girl who never believed she couldn't do anything a man could do while remaining true to herself in the process.  And Daniel, the lone-wolf who finally found his pack and never looked back.  All three chose what they believed to be best for themselves and for the people of Philadelphia.  Sure, they could've easily packed up their inventions and headed to safer places, but they chose to stay and help, fighting the living dead, with no respect for their goodwill.  But none of them did what they did for accolades, instead they chose to follow their hearts and beliefs.  And that's what, I believe, changed Eleanor from a victim of circumstance to the leader of choices.

                                *Character cards courtesy of

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Something Strange and Deadly: Book Club Discussion #3

How did week #3 of the Something Strange and Deadly Book Club already get here? Then again, how is almost the end of August? (Though that part, I'm not complaining much about because it meant I got to go see THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES movie after work yesterday and all I can say is: MAGNUS BANE!!! *swoons*) Ahem...on to this week's question:


Eleanor finds herself more and more intrigued by (perhaps even attracted to) Daniel Sheridan, the inventor of the Spirit-Hunters. What is it about him that appeals to her? And vice versa, what do you think attracts Daniel to Eleanor?
Then there’s Clarence Wilcox, the seemingly perfect eligible bachelor. Why do you think Eleanor doesn’t like Clarence?

Sure, Clarence seems like the obvious best choice for Eleanor, but unlike many of the young ladies during her time, Eleanor wasn't interested in marrying up for the sake of money or social status, and she certainly wasn't keen on the idea of any type of arranged marriage.  She believed in love and that was something she didn't have for Clarence.  Yes, he was wealthy, handsome, and well-spoken, but none of that can buy chemistry, and if there was one solid thing these two didn't have, it was chemistry.  Without chemistry, you've got nothing.

Now Daniel, that's another story.  Eleanor and Daniel instantly had chemistry, even if neither knew it at first.  Like her, Daniel is an impulsive person, but underneath all that tough exterior lied the heart of an honest gentleman.  He would do anything to protect her, even if they argued about it later.  But any bickering or eye-rolling between the two only showed the undeniable chemistry between them.  I believe Eleanor was also extremely attracted to his inventor side, how he was always ready to experiment with things.  He was also fiercely protective of those he cared about, and it didn't take long before Eleanor became a part of his inner circle.  The ending of Something Strange and Deadly furthered proved their mutual adoration.  Even though he fought back the urge to reveal his true feelings, instead telling her he didn't love her, the moment they had as he left with the Spirit-Hunters, when he turned and bowed to one knee, Eleanor remarked that "he was declaring fealty to his empress."  And what more could two young loves hope for in their budding romance?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Something Strange and Deadly: Book Club Discussion #2

A bit behind, I'm barely getting this discussion in on time!  After a very busy week: the beginning of a new school year, a birthday that I'm now sharing with my wonderful best friend's adorable one-year old daughter, and the bumped up release of Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry (not to mention the fact that a book I've been dying to read, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by new author April Genevieve Tucholke, came out the day before my shared birthday), it's no wonder I nearly forgot to do this week's Something Strange and Deadly book club discussion!  So on to this week's question:

Question: Magic and ghostly elements frequent the Something Strange and Deadly series. Even though corpses do awaken from time to time and hauntings are hardly that uncommon, the people of Philadelphia seem determined to pretend the Dead are not a growing threat.
Do you think that’s part of human nature? To push on and ignore the danger at our door? Or do you think Philadelphia’s ignorance—or for that matter, any ignorance/false sense of safety in modern days as well—can be pinned on politicians? Can you think of any examples where something similar happened, but rather than the Dead, it was a natural disaster/growing crime rate/etc.?

From far and wide, it's completely normal and common for humans to turn a blind eye to danger that's staring them down.  There are so many examples that can be used to back this up, from the swine flu outbreak in 2009 that many ignored and refused vaccines until it became widespread (my then 8-year old nephew, in spite of having received a flu vaccine a week earlier, contracted this horrible disease, thanks to many sick people out and about in public.  Thankfully he healed in about a week!), to the wide-spread avian flu pandemics through Asia in 2007 and 2009, to terrorist attacks and the violence in the Middle East and particularly Egypt, and last but not least, sex scandals, such as the Sandusky admissions to various Catholic church officials, where abuse lasted for years, yet many who knew the facts simply swept the truths under guilty rugs.

The world's biggest woe is, by far, global warming.  Something that touches every part of the planet, global warming is something that's constantly in the news, yet many like to say things like, "Oh, it's not as bad as the news lets on," yet pictures and videos showing the devastating melting of the polar ice caps, to deforestation and the loss of countless species of animals, are proof that global warming is our biggest threat.  But look around and many, many people don't seem at all worried about the destruction we're causing our home world.  Global warming is probably the biggest danger at all our doors that people from all walks of life, from rich to poor, from race to race, that most of us choose to pretend is not really there and will not affect us in the long run.  And I don't think this is something that will ever change within human nature.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Something Strange and Deadly: Book Club Discussion #1

Like many others, I'm a big fan of SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY by the fabulous Susan Dennard.  Now, when Susan announced on her blog that she would be starting a book club, I was instantly on board.  I mean, who doesn't love book clubs?! So, here I am, ready to answer the first question in her new weekly series:

Question: Do you think, given the time period, Mrs. Fitt is justified in her demands of Eleanor? Why or why not?

My answer, in short; yes, she's entirely justified.  Do I like it? No, of course not.  But then again, I'm living in a world more than 150 years ahead of what Eleanor lived.  Now, I'm no history buff and I'm not going to pretend like I listened to every single subject in my history classes (my apologies to my high school history teachers!  They were great, I promise!)  What I do remember is the vast difference in classes.  The rich were always above everyone else and had to make a grand show of it.  Otherwise, what was the point in being wealthy if one could not show it off to everyone else? The poor were always well beneath the higher class, and their lacking of the finest of clothes, jewels, homes, etc., marked them as being lesser than.

Mrs. Fitt, in spite of her family's dwindling finances, wanted nothing more than for her daughter, Eleanor, to marry above her class.  With the loss of her husband and her only son missing, Mrs. Fitt was like any other woman, during that time period, and would do anything to stay in her social standing, even if it meant having Eleanor marry someone she could never love.  Forcing Eleanor into binding, much-too-expensive clothing and parading her in front of wealthy, eligible bachelors, was not only Mrs. Fitt's solution to their financial woes, but also a practice done by countless middle-class families.  For many, the only way for their family to increase their wealth was to marry their daughters off to a higher class.  Could women own their own land or businesses back then? No.  Could women obtain very high levels of education? Most could not.  Did women have control over their families finances? Of course not.  For a woman to have the best in life, unless she was born into it, she had to marry into it.  Mrs. Fitt was simply following what was socially acceptable during the late 19th century and to ensure she, herself, would be taken care of, financially, for the rest of her life.  She pushed what she wanted onto Eleanor: no decent young lady would ever have been caught in public without a beautiful pair of gloves, nor would she walk ahead of a gentleman, or wear a garish outfit that would call any particular attention to her less than desirable features.  With that, and Mrs. Fitt's desperate need to keep up with her wealthier counterparts at any cost, it's completely understandable why she would urge Eleanor into a lifestyle in which she had no desire to be a part of. 

Now, thankfully, our heroine Eleanor was one very smart cookie and was perfectly capable of taking care of herself.  Unlike so many other girls during her lifetime (hello, Virtue Sisters!), Eleanor was able to think for herself and didn't desire to only have the finer materials things in life.  Her mother was all-to-happy to drain most of their bank account in order to furnish their home and closets with the most expensive furnishings, silks and jewels, while Eleanor was able to see through the glitter and shine and find what truly mattered in life: love.

So, there's my 2-cents worth on the first question in the SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY book club.  While I haven't been able to read A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY yet (sorry, Sooz!), I do look forward to future discussions and questions.  Go HERE for more information on Sooz's new book club!