Book Review: Only a Monster
by Vanessa Len
From Amazon: The sweeping romance of Passenger meets the dark fantasy edge of This Savage Song in this stunning contemporary fantasy debut from Vanessa Len, where the line between monster and hero is razor thin.
Don’t forget the rule. No one can know what you are. What we are. You must never tell anyone about monsters.
Joan has just learned the truth: her family are monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers.
And the cute boy at work isn’t just a boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to destroy her family.
To save herself and her family, Joan will have to do what she fears most: embrace her own monstrousness. Because in this story…she is not the hero.
Dive deep into the world of Only a Monster: hidden worlds dwell in the shadows, beautiful monsters with untold powers walk among humans, and secrets are the most powerful weapon of all.
“Olivers see. Hunts hide. Nowaks live. Patels bind. Portellis open. Hathaways leash. Nightingales take. Mtawalis keep. Argents sway. Alis seal. Griffiths reveal. But only the Lius remember.”
We believe that if people belonged together in the true timeline, then our timeline tries to repair itself by bringing them together. Over and over and over. Until the rift is healed.” “Like soul mates?” Tom said. Jamie smiled at Tom. “Yes. If you believe in fairy tales.”
“He was very good,” Nick said again. “But I was trained from childhood.” “Trained to do what?” “To kill monsters.”
“This book grabbed me by the throat. Vanessa Len’s world of monsters and heroes is like nothing I’ve ever read, utterly fresh and unique. Put down everything you’re doing, and read it!” — CS Pacat, USA Today bestselling author of the Captive Prince trilogy, and the Dark Rise series.
Mind-bending, heart wrenching, and unputdownable! Don’t feel bad if this book tricks you into rooting for the monster instead of the hero. Vanessa Len has written a masterful debut novel—I loved the time-travel, the star crossed romance, and the monsters. — Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval series
An absolute page-turner. Only a Monster paints another vivid world inside the one we know, and uses a deft hand to bring it utterly alive. Vanessa Len blurs the age-old lines between good or evil, hero or monster, in the most captivating way. — Chloe Gong, New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights
What a fantastic, immersive read – I couldn’t stop turning the page! An exciting, original and complex fantasy about monsters, heroes, and all the people in between. — Naomi Novik, New York Times bestselling author of the Temeraire series
“Equal parts fantasy, adventure, and caper… Unique plotlines and characterization will have readers rooting for the monster; this is a must purchase.” — School Library Journal (starred review)
“A fast-paced thriller that blurs the division between villain and hero and features a deeply conflicted protagonist caught in the middle… an exciting urban fantasy.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Vanessa Len’s Only a Monster is captivating and unique and – dare I say it – utterly monstrous (in the best possible way). This engrossing debut will have YA readers longing to steal time just so they can devour the pages over and over again!” — Lynette Noni, author of The Prison Healer
“Only A Monster is a wonderfully clever and intriguing take on the classic tale of hero versus monster. Vanessa Len has crafted a rich and immersive world filled with unique magic, thrilling action, and a heart-wrenching star-crossed romance. A marvelous and twisty debut that will pull you in right from the start!” — June CL Tan, author of Jade Fire Gold
“Exquisitely crafted, this riveting read opens up a multitude of dimensions and turns the notion of heroes and monsters on its head. Vanessa Len has woven a spellbinding tale laced with mystery, magic, humor, and heartbreak.” — Cindy Lin, author of The Twelve
“A deeply imaginative debut.” — Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Vanessa Len writes YA fantasy about girl anti-heroes, monsters, and enemies who are maybe in love. She’s read every Diana Wynne Jones book more times than she can count. She’s a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and she lives in Melbourne, Australia. Only a Monster is Vanessa’s first novel, and you can visit her online at http://www.vanessalen.com.
Joan is an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. Or so she thinks. One day at the coffee shop, she accidently touches a man’s neck and steals time from him. She wakes up a day later, having missed her first date with Nick, a boy who works with her at the museum in Britain. Panicked, she tries to tell her family what happened but can’t locate any of them. Gran always said they were “monsters,” but she didn’t believe it. She also used to tell tales about the hero, the enemy to all monsters. When she arrives at the museum, things turn into chaos as the Olivers arrive and threaten to kill her and Nick while Aaron Oliver turns aside from it all. Joan begs him to helps them; but he just leaves. She manages to start to send an emergency signal to her family but Aaron’s father breaks her phone. When Aaron’s father draws a sword and slices her side, Nick erupts in a fury revealing himself to be the hero. He plans to kill all the monsters. Even her family. He tells her to stay in the room or he won’t be able to protect her. And he warns her if she steals time again, he’ll have to kill her. When she flees to help her family, she discovers they received her message after all and all but Ruth lay dead or dying. Gran sends Ruth to open the window while she warns Joan that Joan is the only one who can stop the monster. She thought she’d have so much more time to train her, she says drawing harsh breaths. She also tells her that she has a secret power that doesn’t come from the Hunt line. Tell no one, not even family. Gran dies and window open, Ruth shoves Joan through, staying behind to cover her retreat. Joan rushes through the maze and gets lost inside until she comes to the aid of Aaron Oliver, killing one of Nick’s men who pursues him. Together, the two battle time and enemies to try and rescue their families and each other but will getting what they want, leave everything lost to time?
This was a real page turner for me. I love what she did with having Joan the monster and Nick the hero. You feel sympathy for the majority of players in this book. There’s just so much history and trauma for most. I was torn between wishing Joan would somehow find a way to make things work with Nick or stay with Aaron Oliver. The ending, I won’t lie, has wrestled with me for weeks. I just don’t think I would’ve ended it that way but then again, it’s not my story. I do understand, in one way, why the author did so, it just was a hard ending for me. However, that didn’t keep me from enjoying the book. If you read it, let me know your thoughts although, please don’t post spoilers.
Happenings: The car is fixed for now. However, we picked up some damage to our skirting under the manufactured home with the storms that moved through the past couple of weeks. To both ends and the back. On the one end, it’s twisted up underneath so not sure if any damage was done to any pipes or anything under there. Contacting the insurance adjuster. We were gonna try and get quotes first but can’t find anyone who does skirting so hoping the insurance knows people. At least the health’s doing better! Also, we had the HVAC people out and the A/C is all set to go which is great since it’s 75 degrees out there today. Sigh. Have a great week, everyone!
Some links you might like around the web:
- Fantasy Cafe https://www.fantasybookcafe.comhttps://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2023/04/women-in-sff-month-malka-older//2023/04/women-in-sff-month-malka-older/ Women in SF&F Month continues today with a guest post by Malka Older! She is a Campbell Award finalist and the author of the Locus and Neukom Award–nominated novel Infomocracy, as well as the other two cyberpunk political thrillers in the Hugo Award–nominated series The Centennial Cycle. Her work also includes the collection …and Other Disasters and writing for Orphan Black: The Next Chapter. The Mimicking of Known Successes, her latest science fiction novel and the first book in the series The Investigations of Mossa and Pleiti, is described as “a cozy Holmesian murder mystery and sapphic romance, set on Jupiter”—and I’m thrilled she is here today to share how Watership Down had an influence on some of its themes! Always interesting to discover how another author was influenced by a book. You can see the thought and consideration that went into the author’s story from what she discusses.
- Writers Helping Writers https://writershelpingwriters.https://writershelpingwriters.net/2023/04/need-organization-help-try-trello/net/2023/04/need-organization-help-try-trello/ Staying organized as a writer can be a huge challenge. We all have other responsibilities, and the crazier life gets, the easier it is for stuff to fall between the cracks—important stuff we can’t afford to forget. Angela and I are constantly juggling a thousand things, so organization is kind of vital for us. We’ve done a couple of things over the past few years to help with this. First, we hired Mindy, our amazing blog wizard. She’s incredibly capable and enthusiastic, and the work she’s taken off our plates has enabled us to keep on chugging. But we recognize that this isn’t an option for everyone. Heck, it’s why we took so long to do it ourselves. So I’d like to share another idea with you that anyone can use to stay organized. It’s free and has been a game-changer for us. Trello, for the Win! Trello is an online visual tool that allows you to organize projects and track tasks. It’s meant for teams, and Angela and I do use it for our projects, but it has been just as useful for me personally, to keep my own jobs and responsibilities organized.
- Life in the Realm of Fantasy https://conniejjasperson.com/2023/04/03/the-business-side-of-the-business-budgeting-for-in-person-sales-events-amwriting/ Spring and summer are conference and convention seasons. Regardless of your publishing path, indie or traditional, you must budget for certain things. You can’t expect your royalties to pay for them early in your career. And just so you know, many award-winning authors must still work their day jobs to pay their bills long after becoming bestsellers. At first, getting your books in front of readers is a challenge. The in-person sales event is one way to get eyes on your books. This could be at a venue as small as a local bookstore allowing you to set up a table on their premises. Or it could be as large as a table at a regional conference or convention. Signings at writers’ conferences are usually a bit pricy for the number of books you might sell, but they are great ways to network. What are the minimum costs for working a table at a signing event? The bare minimum expenses: You must have a stock of books on hand. You can’t sell books that you haven’t ordered. I order well in advance, as it can take three weeks for an order to arrive via the least expensive shipping method. Paying for overnight shipping of fifteen to twenty books is well out of my price range. Coins, Microsoft content creators We must consider the table fee. A bookstore might not charge you anything for the table, but they may take a small cut if they run your sales through their cash registers. However, large conferences and conventions will charge table fees ranging from $70.00 to as high as $300.00 or more. This varies with the size and type of conference, the venue where the convention is being held, and the vendors you will be competing with. Sci-fi and Fantasy fan conventions can be quite pricy. You will be in an immense, crowded room, competing with big-name RPG game franchises and movie franchises, plus all the vendors of memorabilia and collectibles that are available in the vendors’ alley. If you are able to get a table at a major fan convention, you must pay for transportation, food, and lodging. These costs could be gas, parking, airfare, hotel, etc. if you don’t have friends or family in that area. If you are planning to stay in a hotel, take simple foods that can be prepared without a stove. Being vegan, I tend to be an accomplished hotel-room chef, as most coffee bars don’t offer many plant-based options. While that bias is changing, I still go prepared. Bring at least one pen for signing your books. I bring four or five because sometimes the pens don’t work as advertised. Looks like some extremely useful advice!
- Fantasy Cafe https://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2023/04/wohttps://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2023/04/women-in-sff-month-elisa-a-bonnin/men-in-sff-month-elisa-a-bonnin/ Today’s guest is YA fantasy author Elisa A. Bonnin! Her first two novels were both released late last year: Dauntless, described as a Filipino-inspired book in which “a teen girl must bring together two broken worlds in order to save her nation,” and Stolen City, in which “twin thieves attempt to pull off a daring heist.” I recently read Dauntless and adored the setting with its dangerous beasts and settlements amongst the branches of large sprawling trees, as well as the main character’s journey as she discovers there’s more to her world than she thought. I’m thrilled the author is here today to discuss writing characters and defaults in “Breaking the Mold, or ‘What even is neurotypical anyway?’” Interesting. I often wonder if my character’s emotions are heightened on the page due to my bipolar. The characters we write are often an exploration of ourselves as well as others we perceive in the world around us.
- Writers in the Storm https://writersinthestormblog.com/2023/04/what-can-you-do-with-book-awards-and-reviews/ It’s common knowledge in the publishing world that book reviews and awards are essential pieces of the author success puzzle. Authors know it’s important to get reviews and win awards, but may be left to wonder: “What can you do with book awards and reviews?” After your book gets reviews and wins awards, there are several steps you can take to make the most out of your book’s praise. Read on to learn what you can do with book awards and reviews, and how they can work together to increase your book sales, generate opportunities, and streamline book marketing. What can you do with book awards and reviews? From boosting book sales to impressing industry experts, book reviews and awards are powerful ways to establish yourself as a notable author. Here are some innovative ways you can leverage book awards and reviews: You can sell more books One of the more obvious benefits of receiving reviews and winning awards is the positive effect both have on book sales. Book buyers see an award seal on the cover of your book and think, “Wait a minute, this one must be really good. It’s won an award!”. This validation of your book’s quality compels readers to purchase your work. Winning awards and selling more books? Quite literally a win-win!
- A Dalectable Life https://adelectablelife.com/2023/04/04/setting-up-the-guard-ccc-229/ I haven’t done a CCC in a good long while. When I saw this one (and surprisingly, I am only a week late!) I knew I could play. I have LOTS of cat photos and figured I would have a matchy-matchy but it appears, not quite (or possibly, but I’d have to go digging further into my archives that are not quite as well organised) So, I kept myself to those uploaded to my Google. Then I had so many I had to force myself to cut back to these. I could have stretched this utter silliness for much longer but didn’t want to fall into anyone’s disgraces 😉 Allora, on to my completely silly “story”. Setting Up the Guard Okay guys, listen up! We have a serious job to do. We have been tasked with guarding the perimeter. So, so cute!
- The Write Stuff https://marciamearawrites.com/2023/04/05/tenthingsyoumaynotknowabout-author-suecoletta/ Today, I’m very happy to announce that our guest author is mystery writer Sue Coletta. Sue is well-known to many, many of us in the writing and blogging community, but I’ll bet there are some things in her post today that will make your jaw drop! 😁 With that in mind, let’s get right to it. Take it away, Sue!
- Writers in the Storm https://writersinthestormblog.com/2023/04/characterization-one-of-the-most-vital-writing-skills/ This is the fifth article of the article series The Yin and Yang Relationship Between Psychology and Storytelling. The first article is about reader investment and reader engagement. In the second article, we covered how to create story experiences that feel real to life. The third article shows how to tap into your readers’ subconsciousness and engage them in your story. The fourth article dives into characters’ goals, motivations, wants, needs, and objects of desires. This article covers psychological engineering, aka characterization. Why Do Writers Need to Know Psychology? Writers need to know psychology for four main reasons: Know how readers think and feel and use that knowledge to engage them. Understand the psychology of experiencing so they can create story experiences that have a real-to-life feel. Design characters with plausible traits, flaws, talents, motivation s, etc. Know themselves — why they write, what they really want to write about, and how to get out of their own way. The Eight Crafts of Writing This article is written with the eight writing crafts in mind. The eight writing crafts are: Big Idea (aka theme) Genre Narrative Story Outline (aka plotting) Characterization World Building Scene Structure Prose (aka line-by-line writing) Note: To avoid confusing readers, the author of these articles avoided the alternation of she and her and he and him. Instead, he uses the nonexclusive she and her to mean writer and reader. A lot of detailed info to pick up as you advance in your career. Some of this might be too much for a beginner at this point but good to keep for when you’re ready and for sure you can learn something.
- Syl’s 65 blog https://syl65.wordpress.com/2023/04/07/fridaymusic-%e2%98%80%ef%b8%8f-il-divo-everytime-i-look-at-you/ What an amazing career!
- Books and Such https://teripolen.com/2023/04/06/i-will-find-you-by-harlan-coben-bookreview-thriller-suspense/ An innocent father serving life for the murder of his own son receives evidence that his child may still be alive, and must break out of prison to find out the truth in #1 New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben’s latest breathtaking thriller. David and Cheryl Burroughs were living the dream life when tragedy struck. Now, five years after that terrible night, Cheryl is remarried. And David is serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison for the brutal murder of their son. Then Cheryl’s sister, Rachel, arrives unexpectedly during visiting hours and drops a bombshell. She’s come with a photograph that a friend took on vacation at a theme park with a boy in the background who has a familiar, distinctive birthmark … and even though David and Rachel realize it can’t be, they both just know. It’s David’s son, Matthew, and he’s still alive.
- Writers Helping Writers https://writershelpingwriters.net/2023/04/character-type-trope-thesaurus-entry-jester/ In 1959, Carl Jung first popularized the idea of archetypes—”universal images that have existed since the remotest times.” He suggested that every person is a blend of these 12 basic personalities. Ever since then, authors have been applying this idea to fictional characters, combining the different archetypes to come up with interesting new versions. The result is a sizable pool of character tropes that we see from one story to another. Archetypes and tropes are popular storytelling elements because of their familiarity. Upon seeing them, readers know immediately who they’re dealing with and what role the nerd, dark lord, femme fatale, or monster hunter will play. As authors, we need to recognize the commonalities for each trope so we can write them in a recognizable way and create a rudimentary sketch for any character we want to create. But when it comes to characters, no one wants just a sketch; we want a vibrant and striking cast full of color, depth, and contrast. Diving deeper into character creation is especially important when starting with tropes because the blessing of their familiarity is also a curse; without differentiation, the characters begin to look the same from story to story. But no more. The Character Type and Trope Thesaurus allows you to outline the foundational elements of each trope while also exploring how to individualize them. In this way, you’ll be able to use historically tried-and-true character types to create a cast for your story that is anything but traditional.
- The Write Stuff https://marciamearawrites.com/2023/04/07/meettheauthors-smorgasbord-sallycronin/ This morning, I discovered I had the very good fortune to be included in one of Sally Cronin’s lovely “Meet the Authors” posts, along with Debby Geis /D. G. Kaye, and Sharon Marchisello. What a super post, with Sally’s reviews of books by each of the three of us. Hope you’ll stop by to check it out, and perhaps pass it along, too. (I know Debby and Sharon would appreciate that as much as I would.) Thank to Sally for all she does to promote her fellow authors, and for this wonderful post today, too
- Legends of Windemere https://legendsofwindemere.com/2023/04/08/spring-break-has-begun/ I thought I knew how I wanted to start this post, but my mind is shot. This is only the third day of Spring Break and I’m tired. In fact, I think I may be more exhausted than when I started. Can’t say I’m surprised because it’s been a busy week even with the last two days being off. First, those last three days of work/school leading into break was utterly crazy. Not that I was surprised. It was also the end of the third quarter, which means everyone was scrambling to get work done. I faced this on two fronts. One was at work when I was in the Testing Center and handling a large flow of test takers. Really happy that those times were only the last two periods of my day while I spent the rest with our Life Skills kids. A little off there due to the schedule, but it was fine. The second front was as a parent with my son having to get a lot of work done. This . . . Had some issues that I found out about later and will have to consider for the future. Of course, this left me too exhausted to write that final section of Darwin & the Demon Game chapter 11. I haven’t had a chance to even remotely tackle it since and I doubt I’ll get a chance until Tuesday evening. I’m going to have to extend my timetable given that 99% possibility and at least one day where I don’t have my son being taken by hanging out with people. I’m thinking I’ll only get 4 of 7 chapters done if I’m lucky. That means I won’t be finishing this book in April, but by mid/late May. I won’t start writing the next one until mid-July either.
- Fiction Favorites https://johnwhowell.com/2023/04/07/friday-johnku-aka-tgif-fri-yay-good-news-39/ Today’s good news is a local story about an American hero who lives here in Lakeway. Alan Babin was excited to become a Lakeway resident for many reasons, not the least of which is that he is able to leave his home independently in his wheelchair. The Gary Sinise Foundation gave Babin and his family a smart home in 2018 adapted to his specific needs, a significant gift for the injured U.S. Army corporal who served as a medic in the 82nd Airborne Division. Due to the wounds, he received 20 years ago, he has had to work hard to be able to do many everyday tasks. On March 31st, the city declared it Alan Babin Day in honor of the 20th anniversary of surviving catastrophic wounds during his service in Iraq. Alan was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor and Purple Heart for his actions to save another. The proclamation issued by the city tells more of the story. I love to hear these kind of stories!
8 thoughts on “Book Review: Only the Monster by Vanessa Len Reviewed by Traci Kenworth”
A super review, Traci. Thanks for the link.
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Thanks, John! It was definitely a quick read which is good sometimes but for me, it’s hard to put one book down and jump into another. I seem to need some time in-between but that isn’t good for my TBR pile. LOL.
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And ugh on the car situation. Hopefully that can be rectified soon. Good your health is better!
Thanks for the linkup, Traci! So very kind of you!
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Thank you, Dale! Yeah, cars. We can’t live without them though. Or at least, it’d be harder to get around.
Thanks on the health! You’re welcome for the linkup! Enjoy your day!
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Unless you live downtown with access to everything, it’s a tad harder, for sure.
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I’ve had this book on my Kindle since its release and still haven’t gotten around to it. Glad you enjoyed it, Traci, and thanks for including my link!
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It IS a good read, Teri, don’t get me wrong! It’s just the end threw me for a loop. Lol. I LOVED it otherwise. Give it a try and see what you think!
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