Audio Book Review: Spectacle by Rachel Vincent, Narrated by Gabra Zackman

Book: Spectacle by Rachel Vincent, Narrated by Gabra Zackman

Published May 2017 by Record Books|Length: 9 hours, 25 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Menagerie #2

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

In this riveting sequel to New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent’s acclaimed novel Menagerie, Delilah Marlow will discover that there is no crueler cage than the confines of the human mind…

When their coup of Metzger’s Menagerie is discovered, Delilah and her fellow cryptids find their newly won freedom brutally stripped away as they are sold into The Savage Spectacle, a private collection of “exotic wildlife.” Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle’s owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price. 

But Vandekamp’s closely guarded client list isn’t the only secret being kept at the Spectacle. Beneath the beauty and brutality of life in the collection lie much darker truths, and no one is more determined than Delilah to strip the masks from the human monsters and drag all dark things into the light.

This is another book I’ve really enjoyed!  I really liked the first one, and I’m glad I switched to the audio book, because Gabra Zackman is one of my favorite narrators, and she was a great choice for this book.

I liked seeing the aftermath of what happened in the first book at Metzger’s, and what happened once they were taken to the Savage Spectacle.  What they had to endure there was horrible- more so than what we saw in the first book, and I hated seeing them go through that.  In particular, I hated what Genevieve, Gallagher and Delilah had to go through, but I think that’s because Genevieve’s story really stood out, and we get chapters from Delilah and Gallagher’s perspective.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the different perspectives we see in the book.  I really liked in Menagerie, and I did like it in this book, but not as much as I did previously.  I think part of it is that I didn’t find the other perspectives as interesting.  And I think part of it is that it didn’t translate well to audio.  At least for me, but there were points were I was paying attention but also had my attention elsewhere, so maybe I just wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have been.

Like Menagerie, we get snippets of headlines and other stories about cryptids and the Reaping.  I’m curious to see how what’s going on now will come together with everything that happened before.  It’s more creepy and horrifying and it really opens up this world that Delilah is now living in.

Life at the Spectacle is pretty contained, much like life at Metzger’s was, but somehow, this book opened up more of this world.  I think it’s because of everything Vandekamp was trying to do, with the collar, and the clients that frequent the Spectacle.  When you have a lot of wealthy and powerful clients, it’s going to change things, and I’m curious to see the fallout from what happened there.

With being able to control them at the press of a button, and trying to break them to learn what their triggers are…it’s a brutal world they’re now living in, and it’s a lot more threatening, especially where reproduction is concerned.  There’s no consent for the cryptids (as far as humans are concerned), and that’s something to keep in mind if you pick up this book.

What’s interesting is that while Menagerie would make a great stand-alone, there’s still a lot of story that could be told in this world.  Spectacle is a great addition to the series and adds to the world we get introduced to in Menagerie.  I can’t begin to imagine what we’re going to see in the next (and last) book, but I’m hoping it’ll add more to the world while wrapping things up.

4 stars.  The brutality and cruelty was a little hard to handle, especially on audio, and the multiple narrators didn’t work as well as I thought they would.  Gabra Zackman did a great job narrating the book as well.

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Book Review: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Book: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Published September 2015 by MIRA|429 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Menagerie #1

Genre: Adult Fantasy

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 big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah 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

I really liked Menagerie!  It’s a really cool concept and I liked the mythology behind it.

I felt really bad for Delilah and everyone at Metzgers.  They’re treated horribly, and they’re seen as not human, even though quite a few of them have the appearance of being human.  It’s creepy and awful and you slowly realize how helpless Delilah, and everyone else at the Menagerie are.

I did like the mystery surrounding what type of cryptid Delilah was.  It fit her pretty well, and I thought it worked really well with the story.  While I wasn’t trying to figure it out, I can’t say I’m completely surprised by it.  Considering what we see of her, it does fit.  I can’t say I’m surprised by a character like Delilah, because I kind of figured that we’d have a character like her.

We do have multiple POV in Menagerie, and while the writing style was pretty much the same for each one, I thought each perspective was very different, and showed what it was really like at Menagerie.  It seems like Delilah has a pretty…unique…experience there, and not completely representative of life at Metzger’s Menagerie.

There is violence (and rape) so this book is definitely for adults, though some older teens may be able to handle it.  It is unsettling, and makes it clear that the many people in the book will do whatever they want to the cryptids.  There is no fighting back for the cryptids, because no one cares what happens to them.

One thing I wish we got more of was the Reaping.  We do get snippets of an event called the Reaping, where hundreds of thousands of children go missing or dead, and their entire families are killed.  I wish it were more clear what it was, and what was behind it.  I mean, there are two more books after this one, so there’s always the chance we’ll learn more about what happened.  It’s clear that something led to how the cryptids are treated, and I did want more about what happened.

Still, VIncent created a pretty convincing world, and I feel like you could draw a lot of parallels between the world of Menagerie and our world.  She doesn’t refer to real world events or atrocities, and she has her own story, but still, I think you could draw your own conclusions.

4 stars.  I really liked it, and I thought the world was unique but familiar.  I wish we had more about the reaping and the cryptids, but perhaps we’ll see that in the next book.

Book Review: The Flame Never Dies And Behold The Dreamers

the-flame-never-dies-coverBook #1: The Flame Never Dies By Rachel Vincent

Published August 2016 by Random House Children’s Books|241 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Well Of Souls #2

Genre: YA Dystopia/Paranormal/Post-Apocalyptic

What It’s About: For fans of Cassandra Clare and Richelle Mead comes the unputdownable sequel to The Stars Never Rise, a book Rachel Caine, author of the bestselling Morganville Vampires series, called “haunting, unsettling, and eerily beautiful.”

ONE SPARK WILL RISE. Nina Kane was born to be an exorcist. And since uncovering the horrifying truth—that the war against demons is far from over—seventeen-year-old Nina and her pregnant younger sister, Mellie, have been on the run, incinerating the remains of the demon horde as they go.

In the badlands, Nina, Mellie, and Finn, the fugitive and rogue exorcist who saved her life, find allies in a group of freedom fighters. They also face a new threat: Pandemonia, a city full of demons. But this fresh new hell is the least of Nina’s worries. The well of souls ran dry more than a century ago, drained by the demons secretly living among humans, and without a donor soul, Mellie’s child will die within hours of its birth.

Nina isn’t about to let that happen . . . even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.

What I Thought: I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would.  I think a lot of it is that things were resolved pretty well in the first book, and it did work well as a stand-alone.  I don’t regret reading it, because The Flame Never Dies answers some questions and resolves some loose threads that came up in The Stars Never Rise.  But at the same time, it worked so well as a stand-alone that while I liked it, I’m also sort of meh about it.  What I think surprised me with this book is that, like the first book, things are resolved, with some loose threads and unanswered questions. From what I can tell, there will be only two books, so at least the overall story is resolved.  But things are open enough that there really could be another book in the series to answer those questions.

I was kept on the edge of my seat, though, and there were several times where you’re reading it, knowing that something is about to happen, and you’re just waiting for it to actually happen.  There weren’t a lot of surprises, but there were a few, and she does have a way of making you WANT to keep going.  There is part of me that wants more, but at the same time, I feel like, with this series, Vincent knew her stopping point and where things were headed.  It is nice knowing that the idea won’t get old because it’s being spread out over all of these books, and it easily could have gone that way.  But it didn’t, and I really appreciate that.

My Rating: 3 stars.  It’s enjoyable and fun, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book.

behold-the-dreamer-coverBook #2: Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Published August 2016 by Random House|380 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction/Adult Literary Fiction

What It’s About: Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

What I Thought: I ended up really liking it! Behold The Dreamers was a really good look at what it’s like to be in immigrant in the U.S. Things like the Great Recession and the collapse of Lehman Brothers really does have an effect on EVERYONE, and that was something I never thought about before. They came here for a better life, and they ended up not being able to stay, for a lot of different reasons- the biggest reason being their lawyer. Their lawyer didn’t seem all that great, or interested in truly helping them. I can easily picture families or people like the Jongas hiring a lawyer who seems more interested in the money they’re getting than actually helping their clients.

I felt for them, and how hard they both worked to have a better life for them and their children, only to have it change so much. They do end up going back to Cameroon, and it seems like they’re set financially over there, but they tried so hard to stay here. I felt like Behold The Dreamers showcased how desperate people are to come here and stay here, and how they will do anything to have a life here.

I definitely thought Jende and Neni were a lot more sympathetic than Jende’s employers.  I get they were affected by it to, but it was hard to sympathize with a family who seemed to be more interested in maintaining their lifestyle than actually trying to work on themselves.  They do seem to have their issues, but they were far more unlikable. The Edwards family were much meant to contrast the Jonga family, and you see how different things are for the privileged and those who come here, hopeful and wanting a better life.  Perhaps that is what Mbue was going for, and I did feel for all of the characters, even when it was hard to care about them and like them.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked seeing Jende and Neni come to the U.S., full of hope and optimism, only to have their dreams dashed.  It’s such a great read, and I really recommend it!

Book Review: The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent

The Stars Never Rise CoverBook: The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent

Published June 2015 by Delacorte Press|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: The Stars Never Rise #1

Genre: YA Dystopia/Paranormal

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Sixteen-year-old Nina Kane should be worrying about her immortal soul, but she’s too busy trying to actually survive. Her town’s population has been decimated by soul-consuming demons, and souls are in short supply. Watching over her younger sister, Mellie, and scraping together food and money are all that matters. The two of them are a family. They gave up on their deadbeat mom a long time ago.

When Nina discovers that Mellie is keeping a secret that threatens their very existence, she’ll do anything to protect her. Because in New Temperance, sins are prosecuted as crimes by the brutal Church and its army of black-robed exorcists. And Mellie’s sin has put her in serious trouble.

To keep them both alive, Nina will need to trust Finn, a fugitive with deep green eyes who has already saved her life once and who might just be an exorcist. But what kind of exorcist wears a hoodie?

Wanted by the Church and hunted by dark forces, Nina knows she can’t survive on her own. She needs Finn and his group of rogue friends just as much as they need her.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I really liked The Stars Never Rise!  I’ve only read her Soul Screamers series, which I really liked, and now I’m kicking myself for not picking up another one of her books.

This is a very interesting world- one where there was a war against demons, and now, the Church is in charge of everything, because they are the only ones who can do anything against the demons.  I assumed the Church to be the Catholic church, partially because some of it seemed either really similar or exactly the same, and partially because they’re the only ones with enough power to basically function as a government.

Some of the reveals aren’t surprising, but there were a couple that had me a little surprised.  The Stars Never Rise definitely made me want to keep reading.  It’s action-packed but there were some funny moments, and I really liked the relationship Nina and Mellie had.  I felt for Nina, who was the one looking out for Mellie and making sure Mellie was okay.  It’s a lot of responsibility, but it seemed liked Nina did the best she could.  She wasn’t perfect, of course, and I doubt she could have stopped Mellie, but it seemed liked she tried.

I’m not sure how I feel about the romance- it’s different, and I like Finn, but…I don’t know.  I haven’t completely warmed up to it.  Maybe in the next book?

Speaking of the next book…I like that things are pretty resolved in this book, and yet, you’re left with the sense that the story isn’t over, and there is more of this world that we need to see and explore.  I feel like the sequel is going to add to the world.  Or at least, I hope it does.

I am curious about how demons came to be in this world, and what led to the war and the Church coming into power.  I don’t recall it being explained, and I’m hoping it’s something we see in the sequel, mostly because I’m curious.  I’m fine with the fact that we know it happened, but I guess I want more specifics.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  The Stars Never Rise definitely kept me reading, but I do want to know more about the demons.