Release Day Review: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

, by Kt Clapsadl

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent
Menagerie #1

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent comes a richly imagined, provocative new series set in the dark mythology of the Menagerie…

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger's Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she's forced to "perform" in town after town.

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other "attractions"—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she'll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.

Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale.

What a completely unique and very interesting read! I have to admit I wasn't quite sure what I was going to get when I read the blurb as it sounded nothing like what the author had done before, or really my normal genre reading preferences. But I'm so glad I took the chance as once I started reading MENAGERIE, I simply couldn't put it down. It was dark and gritty and oh so horrifying. I'm having a hard time putting my thoughts about this book into words, rather than just feelings like horror, outrage, etc,  but imaginative would probably be the best description. This book made me feel so much it truly was impressive, from the creepy, to the terrible, to the heart-warming AND heart-breaking moments, I was an utter wreck by the time I finished.

That being said, as much as I enjoyed MENAGERIE, there were a few things that kept me from giving it a full five stars. At times the violence was too much. It's not that I mind violence in books, quite the contrary, but I do prefer a bit more positive or hope to balance things out. Aside from Delilah's stellar strength, for most of the book I didn't feel any hope or goodness, and it was just a bit oppressive. I also wish the ending and the interesting side of a certain character that I won't mention to avoid spoilers, would have been developed a bit more. Both the ending and that character's "story" and the repercussions felt incredibly rushed, and I just wish those parts had been expanded more.

All in all, this book is a must read for any Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Thriller, and/or Suspense lover. From the moment you start this book you'll be on the edge of your seat biting your nails in anticipation for what's going to happen next.

(Received a copy from the publisher)

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Early Review: Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson

, by Kt Clapsadl

Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson

Odea Donahue has been able to travel through people’s dreams since she was six years old. Her mother taught her the three rules of walking: Never interfere. Never be seen. Never walk the same person’s dream more than once. Dea has never questioned her mother, not about the rules, not about the clocks or the mirrors, not about moving from place to place to be one step ahead of the unseen monsters that Dea’s mother is certain are right behind them.

Then a mysterious new boy, Connor, comes to town and Dea finally starts to feel normal. As Connor breaks down the walls that she’s had up for so long, he gets closer to learning her secret. For the first time she wonders if that’s so bad. But when Dea breaks the rules, the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate. How can she know what’s real and what’s not?


I have really mixed feelings about DREAMLAND. The premise was really interesting but the actual execution didn't quite live up to it. While I was kept engaged by the book for most of the read, I felt like there really wasn't a lot of momentum. Things that should have been focused on, weren't, and things that I feel mattered much less stayed front and center. It was rather frustrating at times. Even so, all could have been forgiven if the portrayal and focus on the Dreamland had of been different, or more. For a book with this kind of premise, I just expected a lot more attention and explanation to be tied to it. It just was a let down to be honest.

Onto the characters, I can't say that I really connected fully with any of them. Odea can't across as a petulant child at times, keeping everyone including her mother at arms length. And while a part of me understands Odea's rebellion due to the circumstances, it just rang a bit false. This non-connection came strongly through the book and despite the budding romance, most the characters felt flat.

Overall despite being engaged enough to keep reading, this one just didn't work for me. I wanted so much more and while there were parts and glimpses at that great person hinted to in the premise, ultimately it fell flat.

(Received a copy from the publisher)

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Release Day Review: Led Astray by Kelley Armstrong

, by Kt Clapsadl

Led Astray by Kelley Armstrong
Anthology

Two brand new tales anchor this wide-ranging collection from one of urban fantasy's most successful authors. Here is the first time that best-selling fantasy, YA, and crime author Kelley Armstrong has had her stories collected from Otherworld and beyond. With her signature twists and turns, Armstrong gives a fresh spin on city-dwelling vampires, werewolves, and zombies, while also traveling further afield, to a post-apocalyptic fortress, a superstitious village, a supernatural brothel, and even to feudal Japan.

With tales that range from humorous to heart-stopping, these are the stories that showcase Kelley Armstrong at her versatile best.




I've really enjoyed all of Kelley's books, including the other anthology, Otherworld Nights. So when I had the chance to read this one I didn't hesitate. Unfortunately, while LED ASTRAY was enjoyable, it just didn't suck me or wow me like I had hoped. Anthologies, and short stories are tough tricks because unless they are longer novellas, the short format just doesn't lend to the full set up I would like. However, in cases like Otherworld Nights, the stories are set in an established world with established characters, so much of that build up is unneccsary anyway. Unfortunately that wasn't the case here as most of the stories were not set in Otherworld or Cainsville, and even the ones that were didn't revolve around the main characters, with just a few exceptions. And I would guess it's no surprise that the stories that those exceptions were the ones that I enjoyed the most.

As I said, the stories were largely entertaining, but I can't help being frustrated at feeling like I was left hanging in each story at the end. They were just too short to be developed how I had hoped, and some are still leaving me scratching my head, namely the Dragon story set in Cainsville. I also would have loved to have seen more from the Door story, but again, these short stories just didn't lend to a lot of detail.

It's a compliment to Kelley's writing in itself that I wanted more from these stories. Despite that short format, I was engaged with each new tale. I can only hope that some of these will be expanded upon in the future as my appetite has been whetted, but not satisfied. In the end, aside from anthologies firmly set in established worlds, I think I'll pass on groupings like this. I just wanted more.

(Received a copy from the publisher)

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The Drafter by Kim Harrison

, by Kt Clapsadl

The Drafter by Kim Harrison
The Peri Reed Chronicles #1

Detroit 2030. Double-crossed by the person she loved and betrayed by the covert government organization that trained her to use her body as a weapon, Peri Reed is a renegade on the run.

Don’t forgive and never forget has always been Peri’s creed. But her day job makes it difficult: she is a drafter, possessed of a rare, invaluable skill for altering time, yet destined to forget both the history she changed and the history she rewrote.

When Peri discovers her name on a list of corrupt operatives, she realizes that her own life has been manipulated by the agency. She joins forces with a mysterious rogue soldier in a deadly race to piece together the truth about her final task, unable to trust even herself.


Talk about some twists and turns! THE DRAFTER is a great mix of scifi and thriller, and with each chapter a new depth and twist to the story was unveiled. Every time I thought I had things figured out, the rug was pulled out from under me. It made for an incredibly intense read that bordered on stressful to be honest. If I only had one word to describe this book, nail-biter would be the one that comes to mind. Once things took off I couldn't put it down. Frankly, I was a nervous wreck while reading the last half of this book, but in the best sort of way. I couldn't have put it down if I tried.

One thing I do wish is that I had read the prequel novella. It seems like it's more of a integral read to the series than I originally thought. I have to admit that the beginning of this book was a bit slow for me as I felt like I was scrambling to keep up and figure out what was going on. But after reading the description and the reviews for Sideswiped I think a lot of my early confusion wouldn't have happened. THE DRAFTER has a lot of world building, which is to be expected in a new series, especially a futuristic scifi thriller like this one. However when you add that heavy world building with the very secretive side of the thriller parts of the story, it just kept me from really sinking into the book quite as much as I had wanted to. Of course, things do pick up almost to a frenetic pace once more things are revealed, I just wish I had the prequel's knowledge to have balanced out the pacing overall. 

All in all, THE DRAFTER is one heck of a nail-biting intense ride of a book. World building pacing and confusion aside that should be alleviated by reading the prequel, this is an utterly fantastic read that is sure to please fans of an intense read. 

(Received a copy from the publisher)

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