CATCHALL To be perfectly honest, I knew when I picked this up there was a large chance that I wouldn't like it since I'd**FINAL RATING: 1.60 STARS**
CATCHALL To be perfectly honest, I knew when I picked this up there was a large chance that I wouldn't like it since I'd heard largely mixed reviews. Unfortunately, I decided to go ahead and read it anyway. Why? Because of the pretty, pretty cover. Apparently, I will never learn. This book, frankly, made me so mad. It wasn't the worst book I've ever read, but it was pretty damn close to getting a rating of one, so obviously that's not a good thing. With insipid main characters and horrendous instalove, this book has not made my favorites list or earned a place in my heart. I know that a lot of people, my trusted friends included, loved this book. But I, clearly, did not.
(By the way, I say "what the hell" quite a lot in this review, so if for some reason that offends you I advise that you abstain from reading this.)
THE HEROINE ALICE Ali was annoying, stupid, and dull. She's also very self-centered. Honestly, that's just the way I saw her. She's always putting herself unnecessarily at risk. Look, I get not wanting to be the damsel in distress, but that doesn't mean you go around blindly throwing yourself into danger. Not unless you have a death wish. Just…no. And obviously, I understand that she was really upset over her family's death. I've lost people too, and I get how it is. I even understand her need for revenge. But the way she goes about it is all wrong. She starts hanging around with a bad crowd, her grades drop, and lying to her grandparents to get her way. But of course, there aren't really any major consequences to that. What. The. Hell? That is absolutely not okay with me.
THE LOVE INTEREST COLE Cole was dominating, possessive, and basically a complete bastard. I absolutely hated him. He's a controlling jerk who is constantly telling Ali what to do. We're supposed to find that hot. It's not. It's disgusting and demoralizing. I could not find one shred of anything that I liked in him, and I feel that his humanity is questionable. He's also a bad boy, but not the hot kind at all. No, he's just a bad kid. Cole also has pretty much the worse attitude ever. He has no respect for anyone or anything, and he treats pretty much everyone like dirt. I also don't get why the hell he's is charge of everyone. He's a terrible leader.
THE OTHERS KAT I sort of like Kat. I mean, she seems really sweet in some ways, and she's definitely loyal to Ali through everything. What I don't get is the why. It's never really established. I also feel like this random thing that was thrown in about her at the end made no sense and took away from the story and I did not understand the point of it at all. She was also way too egotistical and thought far too highly of herself. It's okay to be like that to a certain point (let's be honest, I can be that way sometimes) but she just exceeded the limit. That's not cute, it's bitchy. And anyone with half a brain wouldn't want to hang out with someone like that. FROSTY I actually really loved Frosty, and he's really that only character I felt that way about. It's obvious that he cares deeply about Kat and would do nearly anything for her. He's also not all coldness the way his nickname implies, and it seems like he has a friendly and even a sweet side. At the same time, he's essentially Cole's whipping boy and he does whatever Cole tells him to do. That was just annoying. Like seriously, grow a backbone, dude. JUSTIN Justin was an okay character, except to be honestly I don't understand why he is like he is. Ali's viewpoint of him flip-flops way too much over the course of the novel, and it got to a point where I really wished the author would just choose a place to put him and leave him there. The sad part is that is this book had been better overall, that probably wouldn't have bothered me. But alas. MACKENZIE Honestly, I liked Mackenzie somewhat, because she doesn't put up with anyone telling her what to do. Well, at least for a while. Then she lets Cole walk all over her her and lost all of my respect. But honestly, if not for that, I think I might've liked her more. Plus, I liked that she disliked Ali. It gave us something in common.
THE PLOT Okay. I am going to try to not talk too much here. Because if I really get started, I'm afraid I won't stop.
First off, I was annoyed by what Gena called "zombies." They're not traditional zombies at all, and I didn't like that. If you want to write a zombie book, write about freaking zombies. If you don't want to write about zombies, then don't. No one is forcing you to. But don't invent a new type of paranormal creature and try to pass them off as zombies. Like what the hell is the point of that? If you're not writing about zombies, it seems simple to me. I get that there are different interpretations of zombies. Certainly not all the zombie books I've read involved the same ones. But seriously, these so-called "zombies" were not even vaguely like zombies at all.
*repeatedly bashes head against the wall* No. No. No.
Then there's the whole thing that I mentioned in Ali's section, how she starts hanging out with the "bad crowd." That in and of itself isn't necessarily horrible, but the way it was executed was. Ali's grades drop, and there were no real consequences to that. Look, that is not okay with me. I know I sound like somebody's mother, but let's face it, school is important. And yet when Ali decides she doesn't care about it anymore, it doesn't affect her at all. The book implies that her grades dropping is totally okay when it really, really isn't.
Then the pacing is all off. One minute it's going super slowly, and the next it starts speeding up so quickly that I'm thrown off the track and totally forget where it was. I just…what the hell? Why? How did the editor to catch this? Half the time I didn't even know what direction the story was supposed to be going in, either. It was so stagnant, and there were all these random infodumps, half of which ended up feeling completely irrelevant.
Moreover, the overall predictability of the plot was shocking. I'd think something was so blatantly obvious and so going to happen, and then…it did. Sometimes it is nice to guess ahead. But not when it's that obvious, and certainly not when you're right Every. Single. Freaking. Time. There's this one thing especially that's treated as this sort of "big reveal" and I honestly thought when I "found out" that we were already supposed to know that. Nope, apparently it was just so horribly hidden that anyone could have seen it coming. Then there were so many things that I think were supposed to be plot twists, but again…I could see them coming from miles away. I am not exaggerating.
Honestly, it held my attention. I'll be honest. However, that statement sounds more positive than it is. It was a really fast read. But while it held my attention, it was also nothing special. The only thing I really cared about, the only thing that really kept me reading and from throwing the book across the room and out the window and under a moving truck, was Frosty and Kat's romance. I am not kidding. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have even bothered to finish this.
Also, while this is marketed as an Alice in Wonderland retelling, it isn't like that at all, except for this stupid white rabbit cloud. It really has absolutely zero to do with Alice in Wonderland. I mean, really? Call it something else. That's misleading marketing, and I was really disappointed by that too.
I am cutting myself off here, because this is getting awfully long and ranty, and I think that you get the point.
THE ROMANCE The so-called "romance" in this book was instalove at its finest. When Ali first meets Cole, she literally envisions herself making out with him. Um, seriously? Again, I ask, what the hell? So basically after this Ali becomes completely enamored with him and decides that she is madly in love with him. Then they basically break up, then get together, then break up, then get together by casually making out. Eventually, they randomly decide that they're official, and Ali is like, "I don't want to have sex with you…yet. But let's keep making out, I like that." Girl, you just started dating him! Have some self-respect! It's not like there's a sign on your forehead advertising that you're a virgin! Chill! Seriously, the entire so-called "relationship" was gross, overly provocative, and disgusting. It's not even funny. Just, authors, stop writing about these icky relationships. They're not hot, they're just disgusting. I did, however, rather enjoy the secondary romance between Frosty and Kat. Not gonna lie. They're probably the only reason this book ended up with an overall rating of two.
THE WRITING I really don't want to even get started on this, so I'm going to try to keep my comments here minimal. I really, really am not a fan of this writing. Ali's constant inner monologue annoyed the living daylights out of me, and I think the author tried way to hard to try to write the way she thought a teenage girl would think. Newsflash: the majority of teenage girls, including this book's target audience, are not complete idiots who say random and weird things such as:
Deer? Headlights? Hi, I'm Ali.
That is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Like, what the hell is that? Seriously? You know that she can talk like an educated person and not a complete airhead. Personally, I prefer my heroines intelligent to morons. Then the descriptions are just awkward. Half the time I wasn't even sure what she was talking about. Plus, about at least half the time Ali herself sounded confused, which confused me even more.
THE ENDING Uh, so I really wasn't very impressed by this, either. I mean, like what the hell was it even supposed to be? I have to admit that there was one betrayal I didn't see coming, but other than that it was painfully obvious. The ending also felt really rushed and thrown together. Suddenly all these random factoids started popping up trying to disguise themselves as if they'd been there all along, but believe me it was obvious that they hadn't been. There are no words to describe how annoying that was. It was so inconsistent.
WRAPUP So, I think it's pretty obvious that I would not recommend this book to anyone. There are a ton of people I know and trust who loved this book, though, and so I know that there are many of you out there who will. I just can't tell you that I recommend this, because I don't. I've never read Gena's books before, though from what I understand she wrote adult paranormal romance. I think she should stick to that and leave YA alone. Obviously, not everyone will agree with me. I will, however, be picking up the next book. Just…don't even ask why.
CATCHALL I went into Something Strange and Deadly expecting…well, more zombies. I mean, there were zombies, but they we***FINAL RATING: 3.20 STARS***
CATCHALL I went into Something Strange and Deadly expecting…well, more zombies. I mean, there were zombies, but they weren't quite as excited as anything I was thinking I'd get. Still, I solidly enjoyed this book. It had pretty good characters, and wasn't heavy on romance. It's a fun read, lighter than I expected, with a few serious subjects thrown in to balance it.
THE HEROINE ELEANOR FITT I liked Eleanor, for all that she had a few Mary-Sue tendencies. Quite a few, actually, which I will not go into for fear of spending forever going over them. She's plucky and bold, and not afraid of disappointing the standards of her society. Also, she wants to help support her family, and the lengths she'll go to to find her brother are really very admirable.
THE LOVE INTEREST DANIEL SHERIDAN Daniel was portrayed as somewhat of a scoundrel, but a handsome and attractive scoundrel. I felt good enough about him. He was a pretty well developed character. We get to look into his past and see what's happened to make him the way he is, and how he ended up in his position. He definitely has an attitude but it's not overbearing.
THE FRIEND CLARENCE WILCOX Clarence was by far my favorite character. Not only is he sexy, if you ask me, but he seems to be a genuinely good person for all his faults. He was also way more interesting than Daniel, although Daniel was pretty interesting. I totally adored him and wished he had been in the book more. I also wish we'd gotten to learn more about him.
THE PLOT The plot was really good! It definitely kept me interested and even on the edge of my seat. I was constantly desperate to know what was going to happen next. It was suspenseful and definitely page-turning.
Unfortunately, there weren't very many zombie moments. Obviously there were some, but I went into this book expecting more to do with zombies. However, the zombies in this book were used as more of a device and a background than being a major plot of the plot. They were important, but not necessary.
Still, I loved how certain facts and such were slowly uncovered to reveal what was happening. There was one big reveal that I thought was extremely obvious, but aside from that, it wasn't overtly predictable or anything.
The plot of SS&D kept me immersed and drawn in and overall satisfied. The concept was original, and built delicately but also boldly over the history. It weaves in nicely and the politics of the story—because there are politics—aren't boring, but are actually pretty interesting to read about and the story would be the same without that aspect.
However, I was incredibly ticked off by a certain death, which made me angry and upset and in general annoyed. I suppose it did contribute to the plot, but still!
THE ROMANCE Actually, this book was light on romance, but it was definitely there. And the best part is, there's no instalove. It develops slowly and sweetly and without any urgency to rush the couple into true love forever. Instead, it is beautifully and artfully done and leaves more room for building in the future.
THE WRITING Susan's writing is beautiful. I admit that I didn't care too much for Eleanor's voice, but I tried to look past that. The descriptions of Philadelphia are gorgeous, and the banter and dialogue simply glitters. I'd almost say it couldn't have been better. There is always room for improvement, of course, but it's already spectacular!
THE ENDING I though that the way it ended was not only appropriate, but perfect. There's pain, real pain, both physical and emotional. It is not one of those too-clean endings that makes me tempted to do something drastic that I cannot be responsible for. Instead, it's a totally realistic ending and I loved it. It also leaves room for the next book without one of those cruel cliffhangers.
WRAPUP Overall, SS&D was an awesome book and I would definitely recommend it. I think that this will be a really popular book. It's a solid debut, and gives history an awesome twist. However, you won't fund much zombie action. Still, if you go into the book knowing that with an open mind, I have no doubt that you'll probably love it!
CATCHALL It's a well-known fact that I don't read enough zombie books, so when I get the change, I jump at it! Zombie****FINAL RATING: 3.60 STARS****
CATCHALL It's a well-known fact that I don't read enough zombie books, so when I get the change, I jump at it! Zombie Love: The Outbreak was one of the most fun books I've ever read. There was tension and anticipation thick on every page and I found I could literally not put the book down for scarcely a moment. Every time I turned the page I knew something would be happening. I really loved this book.
THE HEROINE SUMMER Summer was a fantastic character who was absolutely relatable. Sometimes we, as readers, expect perfection from our heroines, but in our hearts we all know how unrealistic that expectation is. Summer was a realistic character with strengths and flaws. I really loved Summer, who I found to be a surprising character. She made a few mistakes that made me want to hit her with a two-by-four, and she could be kind of irritatingly stupid at times, but she managed to admirably redeem herself. She was a normal teenage girl without any random special powers, and she was definitely brave.
THE LOVE INTEREST DANIEL Actually, to be honest, I didn't care for Daniel a whole lot. He was unfortunately underdeveloped due to early zombification, so I felt that I didn't really get a chance to get to know him well. He did have the story told from his point of view though, so there was a time when I felt I got to know him better. Unfortunately, I wasn't too impressed by the view of Daniel I did get. He was a bit dense and kind of annoyingly unconfident. Still, it was nice to see a male love interest who wasn't classic tall, dark, and handsome for a change. (Although I do love my tall dark and handsome boys. So, any authors who are reading this…)
THE PARENTS SUMMER'S MOTHER I forget her name, but I remember it started with a J. Anyway, she annoyed me. The thing is, she really did seem like a typical mother. Even though I didn't like her, she was a realistic mother. However, she was a bit extreme in some instances. So, she was basically balanced. SUMMER'S FATHER I forget his name too. Anyway, there's not a whole lot to say about him, good, bad, or otherwise. He did, however, redeem himself for me near the end. That's all I'll say.
THE VILLAIN THE MAN IN BLACK I have always wanted to say that in a review, so duh, I grabbed the chance. He was a wonderful villain who throughly gave me the creeps. I genuinely was interested in how he would play everything out and I felt he gave the story a fantastic villain.
THE PLOT Everyone, please give me a super-dramatic slow clap.
The plot was EXCELLENT.
There was an actual plot, there was anticipation, there was pain.
I am literally IN LOVE, people.
Eric is brilliant. Indie books are generally risky, because you never really know what to expect. A lot of indie books, unfortunately, are of low quality. But this one? No. The plot was wonderful. Something was always happening and it was entertaining and believable.
It was confusing at some places, and tenses were a bit questionable in some parts, but overall it was clear and easy to understand. I could follow the events along quite nicely. The plot wasn't overly complex but was about the right cross of simple and complicated.
THE ROMANCE Here is where my main problem is. You see, the romance was far too instalovey for me. Still, it was sweetly developed although cut off abruptly. Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot of substance. Some things didn't make sense and were too soul-mate-y for my taste, besides being kind of overly sappy. Also, I had another problem with the romance--too many sexual references. I don't have a problem with some, but it got to the point where there was so much innuendo I was just like oh God let it end. But overall, the romance wasn't necessarily bad.
THE WRITING I've read better, but I've also read worse. Eric is a talented writer and I'm greatly looking forward to seeing him improve. It was a bit simplistic, but could easily be improved with experience, time, and practice.
THE ENDING Blew me away. I never would have seen it coming and I loved it! It was perfect. And that epilogue? Can you say cliffhanger? Beautiful! Just beautiful!
WRAPUP Add me to Eric's fan club. I'll be reading future installments eagerly. It was a solid, throughly enjoyable book!