Strange and Ever After by Susan Denard

Genre: YA fantasy/sci-fi
Secondary genre: historical romance
Format: audio
Series: Something Strange and Deadly vol. 3
CW: violence
Rep: Chinese, mixed race/Creole
Rating: planchet-3

As much as I loved the first book, I found that the sequels were a little disappointing on several fronts, no only in some of the attempts at representation, but just in general terms of enjoying the story. I disliked the way the characters behaved in some aspects, and how they were unwilling to bend or show understanding for each other. I was angry at a specific character died, even though I saw it coming, and the end of the book felt…off. In a way it was too tidy, but in another way it just didn’t fit and almost seemed to leave lose ends.

The greatest problem I had, however, was the pacing. The book begins with a fair amount of action, to the point that I was shocked to look at my phone and see I was only a third of the way through the book, as the sequence felt more like a climax than part of the rising action.

It’s a shame, because I was completely obsessed with the first book, and series finale just kind of let me down. I don’t want to call it a bad book, because it isn’t. It just left me feeling a bit…unmoved, through most of it. The last quarter of the book was, by far, the best part of it, but it still didn’t match the emotional impact of Something Strange and Deadly.

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Genre: YA historical
Secondary genre: scifi
Format read: audiobook
Series: The Madman’s Daughter vol 2
Rep: chronic illness, autism coding
CW: graphic violence,
Rating: planchet-4

The second book in the series, you can find my review of book one here.

After fleeing her fathers secret island laboratory as it burned, Juliet is back in London. She has, surprisingly, found a new family for herself, and is beginning to build a life, though the struggle of keeping her mysterious illness and her “oddities” to herself is beginning to wear.

But when murders begin happening in London, Juliet begins to see a pattern the police have missed: all the victims are people who have wronged her in one way or another. Chilled to the bone, she begins to suspect she’s not the only one who escaped the island.

But when Montgomery turns up in London, too, things begin to look up. Surely the two of them can solve the murders and save her life if they work together, can’t they?

Drawn from Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this book continues Shepherd’s retelling of dark, classic literature with a scifi twist.

I really enjoyed this book, though I did have a few things about it that bothered me, as with the first volume. It is definitely problematic in more ways than one, but I still find myself looking forward to the third book, which I believe is the conclusion of the series.

Have you read this series yet? What are your thoughts?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Genre: Classics
Secondary genre: historical romance
Format read: audiobook
CW: racist/antisemitic remarks, child abuse, ableism
Rating: planchet-5

It almost feels unfair for me to review this book, as it’s a re-read for me and one of my all time favorite books.

Jane came into my life at just the right moment, as books sometimes do, and it has shaped so much of my adult thinking and my writing. I related so much to poor little Jane, abused by her peers and her teachers, largely alone in the world even when surrounded by people.

As this is a classic, I will skip over the bulk of the plot summary, as it can be found literally anywhere online, including Google and Wikipedia.

However, this time was a little different, as I noticed more of the subtext. I’ve read this book so many times, but up till now it’s always been in my mostly white, mostly Christian hometown, and the last read through was about 3+ years ago.

This time, I noticed how many comments Jane and Rochester make, using comparisons to people of color or Jews (negatively)*. I also noticed how awful her cousin John is, which is not something I realized when I read the book the first time. But when I look back, I see that he shares many qualities with people who abused me when I was younger, so his judgmental, controlling nature was something I took for granted.

Still, I find that it’s a story of hope and independence. While it has its problems, it’s remarkably forward thinking for the period in which it was written. Not perfect by a long shot, but it still strikes a cord in my heart, and I will never let this book go.


*This is actually pretty fascinating because the book was written not so long after slavery was abolished in England and its colonies, and the pro-slavery camp started spreading all sorts of racist rumors to further their cause. For more information on this (including a fascinating discussion of whether or not Mrs. Rochester was mulato (mixed race), please see this series on youtube. Please note there is a fairly high rate of white appologists in this particular documentary.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Genre: Classics
Secondary genre: Scifi
Format read: ebook
Rating: planchet

This classic novel tells the story of an inventor who creates a time machine and then thrusts himself thousands of years into the future.

I picked up this book because it’s usually spoken of in the same breath as some of my favorite Jules Verne novels, and because I was at a Steampunk event at the time.

Alas, my favorite thing about this book is that it is relatively short and I got it for free since it’s a classic.

For starters, I disliked the narration style. None of the “present day” (i.e. Victorian) characters are named, including our narrator. They are identified only as “the Doctor,” “the Scientist”, etc. It follows a common trope popular in Victorian and early 20th century literature (such as the Great Gatsby) in which we have a relatively dull narrator speaking to a more interesting character, and recording their story. In this case, the one actually doing the telling is the otherwise unnamed Inventor. Because the story is told as if the narrator is hearing it from his friend, every paragraph is in quotations, which I found rather annoying.

The other thing which greatly annoyed me is how ill-prepared the Inventor was for his journey. Instead of doing the scientific thing and testing out his machine in small bursts, he hops a couple of days into the future just to make sure the machine works, the immediately floors it and jumps thousands of years into the future, watching as London grows and then crumbles around him.

When he finally stops, London is gone and the human race has “devolved” into a diminutive race of weak, pale people who do nothing but enjoy themselves all day and have child-like innocence.

I don’t want to go into a full summary just because this is a classic and if you haven’t seen a retelling, a movie or show inspired by it, or been forced to read it in school then it’s only a quick google away.

If I listed all the reasons I disliked this book, then I would be here all day, so I’ll try to just pin down the more problematic elements. Here, we’ll start with my favorite line in the whole book: “She seemed to me more human that she was.”

This line refers to Weena, one of the little people he finds in the future, called the Eloi. Weena attaches herself to him, and it’s somewhat confusing as to whether he sees her more as a ward or a casual girlfriend. Both are possible, considering the penchant for Victorian erotica to focus on the “appeal” of pre-pubescent girls. The author, at least, does make it clear that even if she’s mentally about 10, Weena is physically an adult. I think.

The Inventor views the Eloi as being less than human because they lounge around all day, do no work, don’t read or have any kind of education. I’m not really sure how this would work, considering they also have no technology, no agriculture, no economy, no weapons, and don’t even know what fire is when he arrives.

Which brings me to my second pet peeve of the book, which is how absolutely ill-prepared he was for the trip, arriving with only a handkerchief and a box of matches in his pocket. To be fair, he did get stranded when the time machine mysteriously vanishes, but still. You would think a man capable of inventing time travel would think to, I don’t know, pack a lunch or something? At the very least.

This book is the epitome of colonialism and the Victorian view that they were clearly the best and most advanced civilization in the world, and that arrogance is really what grated on me. The Inventor is more interested in judging his new companions than in understanding them. The entire book is based on the idea that late Victorian culture was the peak of civilization, and humankind had nowhere to go from there except down, which feels both arrogant and naive.

Save your time and read some Jules Verne instead.