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Book Review: Fury by Rachel Vincent

[October 30, 2018] Fury by Rachel Vincent

Title: Fury

Author: Rachel Vincent

Series: Menagerie #3

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Release Date: October 30, 2018

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: 1986: Rebecca Essig leaves a slumber party early but comes home to a massacre—committed by her own parents. Only one of her siblings has survived. But as the tragic event unfolds, she begins to realize that other than a small army of six-year-olds, she is among very few survivors of a nationwide slaughter. The Reaping has begun.

Present day: Pregnant and on the run with a small band of compatriots, Delilah Marlow is determined to bring her baby into the world safely and secretly. But she isn’t used to sitting back while others suffer, and she’s desperate to reunite Zyanya, the cheetah shifter, with her brother and children. To find a way for Lenore the siren to see her husband. To find Rommily’s missing Oracle sisters. To unify this adopted family of fellow cryptids she came to love and rely on in captivity. But Delilah is about to discover that her role in the human versus cryptid war is destined to be much larger—and more dangerous—than she ever could have imagined. -Goodreads

The Review:

The Menagerie Trilogy has been a highlight of my reading year. It’s so different from anything I’ve ever read. Rachel Vincent’s writing always pulls me in (her Shifters series is particularly engrossing), and if anything, she’s only gotten stronger.

While Fury had some of my favorite scenes from the whole trilogy (some truly 5-star moments), it didn’t quite deliver the completely satisfying conclusion I’d been hoping for.

My thoughts on Fury are kind of segmented along with the plot. There’s a dual storyline going on – one in the present (following our main characters), and one in the past. Each thread had a different impact on my overall impression of the book. I’ll talk about the past one first:

Omg – so good! The series has been teasing about what happened with the surrogates in the 80s, and this perspective provided a lot of the answers I’d been looking for, doing so with a riveting narrative that had me glued to the pages. These sections were well spaced between the main story, and the pacing within each one was absolutely perfect! As much as I enjoy reading about Delilah and her crew, I found myself eager to get back to these passages to see what would happen next. It was easily my favorite component to this book (and maybe my favorite of the series), earning a solid 5 stars for execution and that amazing can’t-put-it-down factor.

Then we bounce back to the current timeline POV, and my feelings are a little mixed. I think there was awesome advancement with the emotional states of the characters, and a few moments that will shred your heart… but overall I think the story was just okay. Not a lot happened at first, and when the action finally got going, it was a little underdeveloped and abrupt. I would’ve preferred at least another 10 pages at the end to really flush out the ultimate climax of the trilogy because I think it needed more of a moment (especially since the past timeline set such a precedence with perfect pacing and immersion).

In addition, I still have a few burning questions that I don’t feel were answered to my satisfaction (I’m trying to deal, but it bugs me that I may never know some of the things). Just enough info was given for me to infer some answers, which was probably the intended point, but I wish I knew emphatically. This section is a solid 3-stars (I liked it) rating because characters were interesting (as always), and the things that did happen were good continuations to the story (and I’m not mad at the ending, I just wanted a bit more).

Overall, despite my desire for a little more clarity and expansion, I still count this as one of the more interesting books I’ve read this year. Don’t take my criticisms too much to heart because the parts of this story that really worked for me, I loved with an unparalleled ferocity.

Recommendations: the Menagerie Trilogy stands out as one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend it to readers in the mood for something immersive and unique. It’s not without flaws, but the awesome bits more than compensate.

I would like to thank Harlequin – Mira, Rachel Vincent, and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Fury!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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ARC Management Tips: How to Avoid Over-Requesting

chronicles of an obsessive bookblogger

ARC Management Tips: How to Avoid Over-Requesting

For the past 3 years, I’ve kept my ARC feedback ratio sitting pretty at 100%. Now, I’m fairly proud of this accomplishment, but I have to admit I wasn’t always this on top of things. When I initially figured out how to request ARCs online at NetGalley and Edelweiss, I went hogwild. I mean absolutely nucking futs, requesting everything I thought I’d ever might want to read. I managed to keep my response rate at a miraculous 70%, but only at the sacrifice of my free time (and sanity). It got to the point where I was only reading ARCs and still had more than I could manage.

If reading ARCs has ever felt like a chore, this post is for you!

Then I left my job as a bookseller and had create a new account to request as just a blogger… and it was the golden opportunity I needed to change how I handled ARC requests. Never again would I allow myself to get so buried! It’s frustrating when something that is supposed to be fun and exciting turns into an obligation. I knew I needed to make a change, and had several motivations:

  • I wanted publishers to know they could trust me to review every title I requested.
  • I wanted ARC reviewing to be less stressful and more fun.
  • I wanted time to focus on all my non-ARC books.
  • I wanted to minimize the number of negative reviews…
  • and conversely maximize the amount of positive reviews (which are infinitely more likely to be shared by the publisher/author).
  • I wanted to satisfy my OCD need for perfection.

And you know what? With this new system I’m about to share, I achieve ALL THE THINGS!

Here’s what I changed:

I started by implementing a few personal mantras:

Read the best books first.
&
Life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying.

These mantras were already working brilliantly for all of my other reading, so I finally grew a brain and applied the same philosophy to ARCs reading, along with this system (which can be used for to make any reading more enjoyable, not just ARCs):

Step one: Make a list of high-priority titles

I’d be willing to bet you already have a mental shortlist of the upcoming releases you are just dying to read. My suggestion is to make it official – go onto Goodreads and create an “Upcoming Releases” shelf and add all of these high-priority titles to it. A handwritten list works just as well, but I prefer using Goodreads to organize things because they have nifty little shelves that are relatively easy to populate (and it can be a lot of fun to see cover art pop up sporadically). I took it one step further by splitting books into “Upcoming Releases with Covers“, and “Upcoming Releases without Covers” because I’m anal.

Step 2: Only request titles from this list

Pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? But I tell you, it has completely revolutionized the way I handle ARCs. If you visit my shelves, you’ll notice between the two of them there are only about 45 books. If all of them were to be made available as ARCs, I might die of pure bliss, but I’d also be pretty darn overwhelmed to read them all. However, since I’ve been doing this method, I’ve noticed only about 1 in 10 ever becomes available as an ARC (the ratio is probably a lot higher for those lucky ducks who get ahold physical copies…jerks). For me, this works out to about one new ARC available every 3 to 4 weeks (i.e. totally manageable!).

This two-step system seems ridiculously simple, but really works if you don’t cheat. ;) Here are a few tips to help you stick to it:

->Avoid the “Ooh, shiny!” requests:

This is the most important piece of advice I can offer you. Even with the Goodreads system in place, it’s hard not to fall victim to the “oh!!! It’s so pretty!” requests. We’ve all done it, especially during ARC droughts – a tempting title with a gorgeous cover and interesting premise pops up and it’s SO EASY to give in. Resist the urge!!! Even if you don’t have anything else requested, Murphy’s Law states that the minute you send for a title, two you’ve been dying to read will become available (because Murphy is an asshole). This used to happen to me all the time. My priority would obviously be the books I’ve been dying to read first with the best intentions to get back to the “shiny” ones, but of course I seldom did. #fail

Just don’t do it. See something shiny? Great! Mark it as to-read on your Goodreads profile and move on. I’m serious! I even have bullet points to emphasize how not spontaneously requesting will benefit you:

  • You won’t over-request.
  • It will free up time for you to focus solely on the books you’re most excited about.
  • You can experiment with the “shiny” titles later without obligation.
  • There’s no pressure to finish them (because the worst thing ever is to push through a book you’re not enjoying).
  • You can stick to the books you know you’ll have the best chance of enjoying.
  • You’re not really losing out because things from your highly-anticipated list are the shiniest of all and discovering one of them has become available is the biggest thrill. You wouldn’t want to take away from that by not being able to pick it up immediately, would you? ;)

->Set a comfortable review schedule:

The ARC world seems to be one of feast or famine. I can easily go 2 months without anything from my list becoming available all the sudden to have five of them appear at once. This is why creating a schedule has been so important. Based on what I know of my own reading habits, I allot at least two weeks to read an ARC and compose its review. Realistically, I could probably swing it in a couple of days, but the buffer allows for life to get in the way (as it most often does). Additionally, I write biweekly reviews for Southern Utah Independent newspaper, so I have extra motivation for a set schedule to make sure I don’t have more ARC reviews than slots to run them. On my calendar, every other Thursday is blocked out for ARC reviews. As I get approved, I go through and write in each title accordingly (this also helps me keep track of archives/publication dates for each ARC ensuring everything runs within a reasonable timeframe).

If you can’t fit an ARC into your comfortable schedule, don’t request it. If and only if you’re ahead of schedule (or best yet, caught up completely) then you can add more. Take it from me, scrambling to get it done on time is no fun. And for the record, I’m still talking about requesting additional titles from your list. Not “shiny” ones.

->Never request a sequel in a series you’ve not yet started:

This is kind of a minor tip, but I did this to myself a couple of times and I still haven’t fully recovered. Let me tell you from experience, it’s absolutely miserable trying to get through a book you’re not enjoying knowing you have a second one to attend to afterwards. Pure. Misery. Additionally, even if it turns out you like this series, reading the first one always seems strangely like doing homework and becomes an obligation in its own right. So, even if you are sure you’ll love the series, don’t do it.

->Don’t hedge your bet by anticipating declined requests.

Because the minute you do, you’ll get approved for all of them and then you’re effed. Besides, if you prove yourself reliable, the number of declined requests will decrease over time.


I hope you found these tips helpful – they certainly have revolutionized how I’ve approached reading and blogging in general and I am definitely happier for it. Not to mention I have a beautiful 100% feedback ratio to keep me happy. I’m also operating under the theory that I’m more likely to get approved in the future if I can prove to publishers that I’m reliable. It’s a win-win situation.

I’d love to know – how do you manage your ARCs? Do you use any of the methods I do? Or, even better, do you have a totally different system that works for you? I’d love to hear about it. :-)

 by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Novice by Taran Matharu

noviceTitle: The Novice

Author: Taran Matharu

Series: The Summoner #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help. As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs.

The Review:

Two things got me through this book: 1. The sense of obligation I felt towards the publisher and NetGalley for being kind enough to approve me for this title and 2. All of the “keep reading” reviews on Goodreads who claimed the first part of the book is worth trudging through because of the school for demon summoners!! Those were frankly about the only two things that would have kept me reading under any other circumstances. I did not enjoy The Novice nearly as much as I thought I was going to and honestly wish I hadn’t spent so much time on it.

It had all of the elements that, on paper (no pun intended), should add up to a killer novel, but I think it was published before it was developed to a high level. I know firsthand the frustration of working on a story for years, trying to get it perfect, but at some point you really do need to just throw in the towel and work on something else until your writing ability matches your taste level (Ira Glass – On Being Creative, YouTube). The Novice read very much like a first book (my apologies to the author if it wasn’t), so I can’t help but wonder how much better it could have been with more experience. Maybe I’m just projecting my own writing experience onto this product, but I thought it needed a lot more work before it was ready to be published.

I hinted at above that I was interested in the school, and would like to add that I thought the concept for the demons was the coolest idea out of the whole thing. Each kid gets a demon to call their own and proceeds to learn how to channel magic through it at the school. The demons themselves came in all shapes and sizes and I found particular pleasure in finding out what kind each of the students ended up with. For me, these were all the selling points of the novel, the problem is, we don’t see a glimpse of these great ideas until almost a third of the way through the book (that’s about 100 pages, folks). If I were in this author’s critique group, I would have strongly suggested reworking the story to get to the school a LOT sooner. The interesting thing is, the basics of the story are quite similar to those of what I’ve been working on for my own novel (just replace demons with dragons), so I’ve spent a lot of brainpower on exactly the issue of getting the character to the school quickly. I’m not saying my way is better, because obviously I don’t have a book published yet, but it was interesting for me to see “what could’ve been” had I not decided to restructure (tossing out about 90 pages) to get my character to the school immediately. Food for thought…

Anyway, while I appreciated the concept behind the story and a few ideas within it, I will not be recommending this one anytime soon. It felt like it needed a pacing makeover, more depth of character, and more focus on the elements that make it special (e.g. the school and the demons). I feel like I had to work to get to the “exciting” parts and when I finally did the payoff wasn’t enough to justify the effort.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

dead heatTitle: Dead Heat

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Alpha & Omega #4

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Release Date: March 3, 2015

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way…

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire. 

The Review:

Patricia Briggs has always been a fantastic writer and storyteller, but these last few novels have been absolutely spectacular. The crime-solving mystery elements are interesting and complex and are partially responsible for why the books are such page-turners. Not to mention that the characters are all lovable and dynamic, the world-building is rich with history and culture, and the plot gains momentum with each chapter.

The stakes of this world have gotten higher with each novel, and I find each new story adds to the momentum of the series. The more I find out about werewolves and their culture, the more I want to know. The more I find out about some of our favorite characters and their origins (much like in Shifting Shadows), the more invested I feel in their plight. The same goes for the other supernatural creatures. The Fae have, up to this point, been involved in the story, but mostly on the periphery. There has been a lot of mystery surrounding them, so each new discovery about their nature has me devouring the pages to learn what they’re going to do next and how our heroes are going to respond.

As great and momentous as the broad conflicts have been, my favorite element has been smaller conflicts – the dynamics between the characters themselves. Family drama is always a problem, but when you add to that magic and pack hierarchy, things get a lot more difficult. Seeing the bad guy brought down at the end is always great, but seeing the characters find solutions to these familial conflicts is what leaves me feeling truly satisfied at the end of her books.

After all this time with the series, the characters have such depth and history that it’s impossible not to enjoy reading about anything involving them. I also love that there are two different sets of POV characters within this saga (Mercy vs. Anna & Charles) and I would be hard-pressed to tell you who I enjoy reading about more. Their stories are separate, but integrated within the world enough that I don’t think I could enjoy one nearly as much without the other. I’ve definitely never seen a spinoff add so much to the saga as a whole, but the Alpha and Omega series continues to blow away my expectations at every turn.

A neat attribute to this particular novel is the slight focus on horses. I have gotten the impression that Patricia Briggs is just as passionate about her horses as she is about writing. It’s a whole other aspect of her life that she hasn’t really expressed in her writing to this point. It was a lot of fun to get a sneak peek into that world, and I’m glad she finally found a way to work it in. It made it more personal and special in a way. Although there are wonderful things about each of her novels. It’s a small wonder I’m always chomping at the bit to devour each one that comes out (pun intended).

Overall, I consider Dead Heat another masterpiece from an amazing writer. I love the characters, the world, the magic, the story, and pretty much everything else about this book (and saga). There’s a reason Patricia Briggs is considered a staple in the urban fantasy genre and a reason why she continues to be one of my favorites! If by some chance you haven’t read this series yet, I would highly recommend reading it alongside the Mercy Thompson series in a specific order based on the publication date (starting with Mercy Thompson #1: Moon Called). You won’t be disappointed!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic_HC_JKT_des4.inddTitle: Panic

Author: Lauren Oliver

Series: N/A

Genre: Teen Fiction

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The OverviewPanic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do. Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought. Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for. For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

panic

The Review:

Panic was such a cool book. While outside of my normal genre (all things make-believe) it had the one element that will make me read practically anything:

Competition.

I’m serious. Someone could write a narrative about weeds encroaching on their front lawn and I probably pick it up because I want to see who wins. Luckily, the competition in Panic was a lot more interesting. Every year, high school graduates of this small town have the option to compete in a series of dangerous challenges in the hopes of earning a life-changing pot of money. For some of the graduates, the money is their ticket out of some pretty deplorable circumstances. I loved digging into the lives of a couple of the contestants to find out what motivated them to compete in this somewhat deadly game.

The competition ended up being a lot more personal to these characters than I would’ve guessed. The character development throughout the story, specifically that of Heather, one of the main POVs, was actually my favorite element of the story. The types of situation she finds herself in, and the inner strength she pulls from to get through them was inspiring. The other characters were great, too, but Heather is the one that will stick with me the longest.

This is the second book I’ve read by Lauren Oliver, and I can confidently say I’m a fan of her writing. Not only does she know how to create great atmosphere, but her writing style and voice are both lovely and evoking. I always get drawn into her books from the first page and have a difficult time finding good stopping places. In Panic, Oliver managed to portray exactly how it felt to be an angsty teen (of the non-annoying variety), reminding me of all the sweet, awkward, embarrassing, uncomfortable, and stupid things we go through at that age. It was nostalgic to say the least, and I kind of wish I’d been able to read this book when I was a teen because it offered a sort of reassurance that I wasn’t alone.

Overall, this was a fantastic novel from an author I am becoming quite fond of. I am certain I will be picking up anything she decides to write in the future (as soon as I devour all the books she’s already written). If you haven’t read her before, Panic is a great place to start.

Recommended Reading: this is going to be an easy book to recommend because it has love, adventure, drama and just a touch of mystery all wrapped into a nifty little package. I am glad to have something to recommend to readers who aren’t in the mood for fantasy or paranormal.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes