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The Menagerie Trilogy by Rachel Vincent

Much like Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a beautiful, fascinating, and timely commentary on gender and economic inequality and religiously-justified politics, Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie trilogy is a beautiful, fascinating, and timely commentary on xenophobia, “otherness,” and our tragic tendency to treat other people as sub-human out of fear, ignorance, and selfishness.

Titles: Menagerie, Spectacle, and Fury
Author: Rachel Vincent
Series: Menagerie Series
First Publish Date: September 29th, 2015, by Harlequin MIRA
Genre: Urban fantasy, dark fantasy
NarratorGabra Zackman
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description of MenagerieWhen 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.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

In the world of Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie trilogy, cryptids have always existed—human/animal hybrids of myth and legend, creatures that look human but have inhuman abilities, etc. But it’s a horrible time for them. If they are outed and caught, they are ostracized from society, separated from their families, exploited and bred like beasts, and treated as deadly or evil creatures by humans.

The impetus for this treatment is an event that happened several years prior—a mass killing that occurred all across the globe, committed by creatures that were not human. Rage, fear, and ignorance spurred humans into tormenting all cryptids, believing that one form of cryptid was responsible for the killings.

Delilah Dawson has returned to her hometown after going to school for cryptid zoology in order to understand and care for the various cryptid creatures. Her boyfriends treats her to a trip to the carnival, where a menagerie of cryptids is on display. After watching the brutal treatment of a child werewolf by the menagerie staff, Delilah has an unexpected transformation—and gets labeled a cryptid herself.

This change in Delilah’s status is the real horror and appeal of the series. As a stand-in for the reader, Delilah—a perfectly normal human—suddenly becomes “other,” and the treatment she receives after that point is atrocious. It leads the reader to think, “What if that happened to me?” It reminds us that anything a group of people is allowed to do to others—such as tear children from parents and place them in animal cages—they can eventually do to us. It forces us to recognize the “frog in hot water” phenomenon that many people believe we are living through today.

Delilah, who has learned to view cryptids much the way a sympathetic vet or zoologist views animals, is now forced to see how little difference there is between them and herself. She comes to know them as individuals with the same concerns about their family and survival as she has. And because she had the privilege of a human upbringing and education, she is able to plot and scheme and fight for cryptid rights with more skill and righteous indignation than a cryptid without that privilege.

There are so many timely and relevant themes in this trilogy that it could be great fodder for a book club. At the same time, it is rich, beautiful, sorrowful, devastating, and empowering fantasy fiction and a joy to read. Stories like this one justify the theory that reading can help people be more empathetic, compassionate, and emotionally intelligent because they are “experiencing” events from a point of view other than their own. The audio version, narrated by Gabra Zackman, is fantastic. For me, hearing the characters’ voices really amps up my emotional connection to the story.

And did I mention the ending? Wow! It’s not a happy ending, but it’s not an unhappy ending, either. It’s clever, victorious, sad, and hopeful with a huge dollop of karma, which I adore. But it also leaves the reader with questions: What happens next? What impact does the final event have on the world? Will things get better for cryptids? Those questions go unanswered in the book, indicating that it is up to us how the future goes for everyone who is “other.” We readers have to be the ones to make that better future manifest in our own world.

The Menagerie trilogy is not popcorn fiction, but a significant commentary on the state of humanity in the tradition of The Handmaid’s Tale, Fahrenheit 451, and other great dystopian classics. But it’s also a beautiful, accessible, and highly-entertaining piece of fiction, one that will leave you with some deep thoughts and lots of feels. Five stars for each book.

Nell’s Gossip and Book Hunt 5/12/19

Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip.  Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.

Back with new releases again… they keep writin’ them, we keep readin’ them.

  • I have been a fan of Rob Blackwell for years. My favorite books of his are the Soren Chase series.  I have news that he’s starting a new series starting Jules Castle.  Read the description, check out the cover.  Both will catch you hook, line and sinker.

Title: Riders on the Storm
Author: Rob Blackwell
Series: Jules Castle #1
Release date: May 21, 2019
Description: Dakota Territory, 1883: A land of violence, lawlessness—and vicious monsters.

Jules Castle can outsmart, outgun, and outrun any bandit in the Old West. But will her legendary skills be enough to save her?
Three years ago, Jules’ outlaw father vanished during a mysterious mission. Since then, she’s kept up the family business, robbing banks and chasing clues to his whereabouts across the Territory. Unfortunately, his trail sets her right in the path of supernatural, hard-to-kill creatures known as Vipers, whose bite will transform anyone into one of their kind.
Jules is determined to save her father, no matter the peril or cost. With the help of a bounty hunter and her adopted sister Miranda, she will have to pull off an impossible rescue. Hounded by former members of her father’s gang, hunted by a U.S. Army posse, and pursued by Vipers, Jules’ chances are slim. Can she beat the odds one last time?
  • Here’s another awesome cover and description that hooked me.

Title Reaper Witch: Wolves and Zombies
Author: Chanda Stafford
Series: Urban Magic #1
Release date: May 10, 2019
Description: She spent years avoiding the dead. Now they’re coming after her.
Three years ago, Max Norton left home to open a tea leaves and tarot shop. It seemed like a good trade: escape the King of Hell and live a low-key life free from scrutiny and death threats. For a Scythe, a half-human paranormal entity who can open literal portals to Heaven and Hell, and who’s hounded by creatures both light and dark, it’s a dream come true. Until an annoyingly handsome ghost shows up and demands that Max help him solve his murder.

She wants nothing to do with it, but when zombies start attacking children and demons are sent to kill her, she knows this is one fight she can no longer avoid. Her ex-boyfriend, a charismatic wolf shifter, tells her about a dead zone in the forest where a necromancer is practicing black magic.

The only way to stop him is with the forbidden powers she ran away from; powers that will put a target on her back, because they mark her for a destined role in Hell she has no intention of fulfilling.

Saving the world from the zombie apocalypse may literally mean challenging the armies of Hell and facing the past she ran away from. With time running out, Max and Luke have to figure out who’s raising the dead and turning them into bloodthirsty monsters before they kill the few people left that she actually cares about. Hiding in the shadows, a mysterious enemy holds a secret that could change Max’s life forever…

Assuming she lives long enough to hear it.

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Nell’s Gossip and Book Hunt 4/28/19

 

Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip.  Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.

Back with new releases again… they keep writin’ them, we keep readin’ them.

  • Again, stumbling around on the great www and found this new to me author.  Check out this book – love the cover.   I’ve started this book already, and I’ve got to tell you that I like it.  I mean, granted, I’m only on chapter 2, but so far it’s keeping me turning pages.  I can describe the protagonist for you:  He is one part Harry Dresden, one  part Lucifer (the show, not the Devil), and one part Wynona Earp.  Seriously, one kick  ass paranormal investigator.

Title Devil’s Due
Author: Percival Constantine
Series:  Luther Cross #1
Release date: April 1, 2019
Description: Half-human. Half-demon. All attitude.
Luther Cross here. Dangerously handsome, effortlessly stylish half-demon, at your service. As I have inherited certain…abilities with my odd genetics, I’ve put them to use as Chicago’s foremost paranormal investigator.

My current case? Well, I have to admit, it feels a little personal. I’m helping a mysterious girl who’s turned up on my doorstep, pregnant through mystic means. I can’t help but think of my own mother…and if I don’t help her, she’ll face the same fate.

Turns out, someone is trying to create an army of half-demons. While it might be a pleasant change to hang out with my own kind, I know most half-demons don’t have my sense of morality. If I don’t stop this evil plan, the armistice between Heaven and Hell will be broken and all of the Earth will pay… It will be the beginning of the end.

  • Here’s another pick that has an awesome cover.  It’s book 1 in, hopefully, will be a series.  One of the authors is Orlando Sanchez and he’s written the book I’ve just read Tombyards and Butterflies.  One of the protagonists is a character named Strong.  He is a very frustrating character compared to the other protagonist, Montague.  I’ll have the review done and you can read about it.  For now, thought, check out this book for your TBR pile.

TitleDragon’s Torment
Author: John P. Logsdon
And   Orlando Sanchez
Series: Badlands Paranormal Police Department
Release date:  December 21, 2018
Description: In the Badlands, you keep your enemies close and the monsters closer.

Welcome to the Badlands Paranormal Police Department, where Chief Ezekias ‘Zeke’ Phoenix, a dragon who believes rules are meant to be followed, has accepted his new post.

His job is simple: keep the fragile peace between dragons, hellions, and the denizens of hell. The rules in Infernal City are even simpler: mind your business, watch your back, shoot first, and don’t bother asking questions.

When a dead hellion crashes into his life, Zeke and the Badlands PPD will break all the rules of the City. To find the killer, he’s going to make some powerful enemies who would prefer to see the new dragon chief of the PPD retired…permanently.

If Zeke fails, the Badlands will plunge into a civil war. If he succeeds, he places a target on his back, and his enemies rarely miss.

Will Zeke risk setting off the powder keg of Infernal City? Will he find the killer and bring him to justice before the Badlands becomes a wasteland? Or will they give him an early retirement package…sudden death?

If you like Jim Butcher, Domino Finn, Michael Anderle, M. D. Massey, Rick Gualtieri, Eric Quinn Knowles, Noah K. Sturdevant, Ben Zackheim, K.F. Breene, Shayne Silvers, Ilona Andrews, Brad Magnarella, Patricia Briggs, or Kim Harrison…you’ll have a blast with this book in the Badlands Paranormal Police Department.

 

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Necropolis PD by Nathan Sumsion

How can a normal college kid get sucked into Purgatory without even trying?  Can a human even survive in the land of the dead?  Can the dead be murdered and be more dead?

Purchased by reviewer

Title:  Necropolis PD
Author:  Nathan Sumsion
Publish Date:  April 2, 2019
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Source:  purchased by reviewer
Publisher’s Description:  How do you solve a murder in the city of the dead?

Jacob Green was just an average college student. But three months ago, he ran through the wrong door and found himself trapped in the city of Meridian – a literal necropolis, concealed from the modern world, made up of forgotten places and populated entirely by the dead.

As the only living, breathing resident, Jake has struggled to scrape out an existence while waiting for the Necropolis Police Department to decide his fate, and it’s not looking good. But when an unusual string of crimes hits the city, Jake’s overseer and tormentor, NPD Detective Marsh offers him a deal: Jake’s life in exchange for helping them solve the worst series of crimes in the necropolis’ history.

Someone, or some thing is killing the dead, and if Jake can’t figure out who’s responsible, he could be next.

Necropolis PD is a hidden world fantasy that combines mystery, horror, magic, and more than a little humor. This book is perfect for the living and recently-departed alike.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words …SPOILERS. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive about trying this book.  New author.  First time out, probably needed polishing.  Fairly violent, no sex, zombies, ghosts, other dead like creatures.  Urban Fantasy from a gamer.  I had a very strong ‘we’ll see’ attitude.

This book was one of those books that I could not put down and although I had to it was still running laps in my brain.  I am still awed after reading it.  The writing was absolutely incredible.  The descriptions and the characters were so alive, especially the main protagonist, Jacob Green.

Jacob is a college student that has absolutely no idea that he is special.  He has no idea that his life is to irrevocably change when he tries to help at a tragic car accident.  He chases a monster into an underworld place that leads to unimaginable things.

The story is pretty straight forward.  It’s a mystery as to why or how Jacob is in the underworld.  It’s not clear why the monsters keep him alive even though they torture him within an inch of his life. I mentioned before that the detailed writing is amazing.  This story is told in first person with Jacob telling the story. As the story progresses, I feel like I’m in 1977 watching Barney Miller TV show with Beetlejuice characters thrown in for good measure.  This comparison is a good comparison because I loved both.

Jacob is self deprecating and although he doesn’t know even a smidge of what is going on, he has a brain and common sense to put pieces together.  I love this character and his support cast because of how well they were fleshed out…um…so to speak (some of the “zombies” were missing flesh – ha).  Jacob doesn’t learns quickly and he doesn’t frustrate me like some characters who just can’t get the drift.

I loved this book and I hope it will become a series.  I’d read this author again, for sure.

 

 

Other recommendations…

…you might try

Purchased by reviewer

 

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Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

The first book in the IN DEATH series by J.D. Robb.  The book that started the phenomenon of at least 48 books with several novellas thrown in.  Eve Dallas meets billionaire Roarke and he slowly ingratiates himself into her life and her love.

Title: Naked in Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #1
Publish Date: July 1, 1995
Genre: Fantasy suspense romance
Narrator: Susan Erickson
Publisher’s Description: Here is the novel that started it all- the first book in J.D. Robb’s number-one New York Times-bestselling In Death series, featuring New York homicide detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas and Roarke.

It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing: passion.

When a senator’s daughter is killed, the secret life of prostitution she’d been leading is revealed. The high-profile case takes Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the rarefied circles of Washington politics and society. Further complicating matters is Eve’s growing attraction to Roarke, who is one of the wealthiest and most influential men on the planet, devilishly handsome… and the leading suspect in the investigation.



Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words …SPOILERS. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

I have always had the stubborn opinion that I don’t need to read a book if I’ve already read it once.  My partner in crime here in the blog world has been slowly changing my mind about that.  Ivana re-reads series just because a new book is joining the ranks.  I always thought that was a silly thing to do, but I’m coming around to her way of thinking.

If you’ve followed my posts of late, I read the In Death series book #46, #47 and #48. Dark in DeathLeverage in Death, and Connections in Death are the last three releases with Vendetta in Death coming soon.  Now, a person that is not enthralled with the In Death series may say something like: “48 books?  How can a series go on for 48 books?”  I don’t know and I don’t care.  I love this series.  What I think I love about it the most is that the mystery plot is the basis for the book and the characters are not the center of the story.  Basically, the mystery happens, Eve Dallas has to investigate and from there I am led through the procedure of finding the killer with the secondary characters hopping in to help.  There is also the bonus of living Eve’s off-time life as a secondary story too which is an over arch of the whole series.  This series has a lot of characters, but they aren’t all thrown at the reader right away.  The infusion of the characters is slow so it’s kind of like meeting the family one by one.

Naked in Death is the very first Eve Dallas book.  She is an incredibly tough woman with the uncanny ability to fit the murder puzzle together.  She isn’t the only hero in the book which gives credit of teamwork where credit is due.  The plot of the story involves a murder of a prostitute.  It’s a high profile prostitute with a lot of political land mines to navigate.  Eve could easily open and close the case by citing some lame reasoning or another, but, like a dog with a bone, she will not give up.  Her tenacity and incredible feeling for each and every victim is what keeps her chipping away until she uncovers what is more than just a little shocking.  She meets her future husband, Roarke and fights valiantly against her attraction to him, which we all know is a moot point.

I read this book the first time around nearly 20 years ago.  It holds up today and could easily follow any of the newer books.  The writing is very professional, which it would be because of the author and best selling level of quality.  I don’t feel like I need to plug this author because she is world renown but I do feel I need to plug the series.  Come on and join us cult followers of Eve Dallas and Roarke.  I do not think you’ll be sorry.

Our reviews in this series…

 

 

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