Tag Archives: Kelley Armstrong

Sunday Post – 26th June

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s my birthday, so I shall be conspicuous by my absence today as I’m hosting a family birthday get-together, complete with four generations of the family. Yesterday, we went out for a meal together in Brighton at a vegetarian restaurant, which was lovely. This week has been very busy with all sorts of non-editing activities.

I can’t quite believe it – but I’ve now finished this year’s Creative Writing courses, other than a one-day Summer Surgery course in July. So there has been a tranche of paperwork and admin to wrap it all up that needs to be dealt with. Wednesday night was Northbrook College’s Information Evening, where I met up with my other Adult Learning teaching colleagues as we start looking forward to September’s new courses.

I’m also in the process of changing computers – my desktop was bought in 2010 and works very hard. So as a birthday pressie, I’ve got a spiffy new model with a solid state hard drive which, hopefully will mean I won’t be spending vast acres of my life staring at the screen as it leisurely takes minutes at a time to consider opening up. My marvellous son, who helped me choose it in the first place, has helped me set it up.

I’ve managed to catch up a bit on my reading this week, completing:

City of the Lost – Book 1 of the Casey Duncan series by Kelley Armstrong
Casey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. Since then she’s become a talented police cityofthelostdetective, tethered only to her job, her best friend, Diana, and the occasional evening with her sexy, no-strings-attached ex-con lover, Kurt. But then Casey’s own dark past begins to catch up with her. The two women need to run—and Diana’s heard of a place where they won’t be found, a town especially for people like them…

I thoroughly enjoyed this contemporary murder mystery set in a confined, isolated community under a fair amount of stress – an ideal backdrop for all sorts of high jinks.

 

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
magicbitterMaire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from. When she is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being, she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.
This is a struggle for finding lost identity, with a number of fairy tales stitched into the storyline. I found this an unexpectedly moving and enjoyable read and will certainly be hunting down more books by this interesting author.

 

Demon Road – Book 1 of Demon Road series by Derek Landy
thedemonrdDemon Road kicks off with a shocking opener and never lets up the pace in an epic road-trip across the supernatural landscape of America. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers: they’re all here. And the demons? Well, that’s where Amber comes in…Sixteen years old, smart and spirited, she’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves.

This YA offering isn’t for the faint of heart – full-on, bloody adventure features right from the start. That said, I really enjoyed the protagonist, Amber, and the cast of characters both good and bad who whisk the narrative along at a good clip. But I wouldn’t be happy for a young teen to read it, given the level of violence.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 19th June

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Titanborn by Rhett C. Bruno

Teaser Tuesday – Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

Eve of War is Unleashed…

Review of The Obsession by Norah Roberts

Review of The Passage – Book 1of the The Passage series by Justin Cronin

Friday Faceoff – Armed to the Teeth featuring The Thousand Names – Book 1 of The Shadow Campaigns series by Django Wexler

Review of City of the Lost – Book 1 of the Casey Duncan series by Kelley Armstrong

Other interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

This made me laugh on a rainy Thursday afternoon. Five of the worst ways to ask for print ARCs http://cuddlebuggery.com/blog/2012/06/06/five-of-the-worst-ways-to-ask-for-print-arcs/

I enjoyed reading these nuggets of information about one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. Five Fascinating Facts about A Midsummer Night’s Dream https://interestingliterature.com/2016/06/22/five-fascinating-facts-about-a-midsummer-nights-dream/ …

This is a great article about how the age of the internet can allow us to share those hefty, or tricky reads with someone else. Five Benefits of Buddy-Reading https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/06/23/five-benefits-of-buddy-reading/ …

Steph Bianchini gives us yet another lovely slice of science with this fascinating article.
Skies from other planets – The peaks of eternal light http://earthianhivemind.net/2016/06/21/skies-from-other-planets-the-peaks-of-eternal-light/ …

I loved this pictorial journal of a day trip from another part of the world where I’ve never been. A one day escape… https://indigodrift.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/a-one-day-escape/ …

eve-of-war-finalAnother slice of excitement is that Fox Spirit Books has published Eve of War, a short story anthology of science fiction, fantasy and horror tales of women battling their foes, which includes my own story ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ imagining what happens to Prospero and Miranda after they leave their enchanted island at the end of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.flashfloods

 

For a change, I’m not the only one moaning about the atrocious weather – we have endured some torrential downpours and my heart goes out to the poor souls who have endured flash flooding and damage with lightning strikes. Flaming June for all the wrong reasons…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

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Review of City of the Lost – Book 1 of the Casey Duncan series by Kelley Armstrong

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I enjoy Kelley Armstrong’s writing – see my review of Omens here. So when I saw City of the Lost on the library shelves I scooped it up.

cityofthelostCasey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. Since then she’s become a talented police detective, tethered only to her job, her best friend, Diana, and the occasional evening with her sexy, no-strings-attached ex-con lover, Kurt. But then Casey’s own dark past begins to catch up with her. The two women need to run—and Diana’s heard of a place where they won’t be found, a town especially for people like them…

One of the prerequisites for a really successful murder mystery is an enclosed community where the murderer and the victim are necessarily interacting with no way of leaving once the deed is done. Which is why the country house week-end killing was one of the staples of the early whodunits – it ticked all those boxes and gave the reader plenty of opportunity to get to know all the guests and discover guilty secrets and hidden antagonisms. In this setting – an isolated community set hundreds of miles away from modern civilisation in the wilderness – Armstrong sets up the same backdrop for her crimes, though they are a good deal less genteel than Colonel Mustard in the library with the poker.

Does it work? Oh yes – I really liked the concept of this secret town with the hard-pressed sheriff, which also has echoes of America’s Wild West past when the rule of law was overseen by one man and his deputy. But while the setting may hark back to a historical past, the protagonist certainly doesn’t. Casey is half Filipino-Chinese, with a troubled past. She has always been the outsider, never quite belonging and her only friend is Diana, who also has her own problems. Casey is also a police detective and is immediately drafted in to assist the very grumpy sheriff who has a suspicious death and a missing person to contend with.

As the story gradually spools through the possible suspects, with a variety of other crimes thrown into the mix, we get to know Casey a lot better. For despite the story being told in first person pov, Casey takes some time to fully warm to. I liked that. In the days of protagonists emoting all over the place, it was a refreshing change to have a protagonist who doesn’t often show her feelings. Alongside the increasingly dire situation – think Midsomer Murders’ body count – there is a growing romance that also steadily gathers momentum throughout the book. While I generally don’t object to a romantic sub-plot, it is never the reason why I’ll pick up a book, so I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed watching this relationship unfold. I also very much enjoyed the major plot twist that explains exactly why the sheriff is perpetually bad tempered and unable to move away.

However, in order to really work, the denouement has to have plenty of drama and shock value. Despite the fact that I’d guessed who one of the main perpetrators was before the main unveiling, this still was a successful climax to the story, which Armstrong brought to a strong conclusion leaving a couple of dangling plotpoints so she will be able to resume this series in due course.

All in all, this is an enjoyable, slickly written book with plenty going on and an engaging, appealing protagonist. If you like classic murder mysteries with plenty of drama and an unfolding love story, then track down this book.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Deceptions – Book 3 of the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series – read my review of Omens here. Would this third instalment of Cainsville continue to intrigue and draw me into the murky world of warring fae?

DeceptionsTRUST NO ONE. Olivia Jones is desperate for the truth. The daughter of convicted serial killers, she has begun to suspect that her parents are innocent of their crimes. But who can she trust in a world where betrayal and deception hide in every shadow? RISK EVERYTHING. Liv does have one secret weapon: a mysterious sixth sense that helps her to anticipate danger. The trouble is, this rare power comes with its own risks. There are dark forces that want to exploit Liv’s talents – and will stop at nothing to win her to their side. FACE THE TRUTH. Now Liv must decide, before it’s too late. Who does she love? Who is really on her side? And can she save herself without burning down everything that matters most?

This series started with a real bang that had me immediately rooting for Olivia and I also enjoyed where the story spun off in the last book, so is this offering as gripping? Olivia is a well written, enjoyable character and the set-piece scenes, particularly those in the deserted mental hospital are well handled, with plenty of pace and sufficient creepiness to hold me. However, I am not a huge fan of love triangles and this book revolves around Olivia’s close relationship with Gabriel and Ricky, as we find her torn between the young, sexy biker and the conflicted, moody intellectual… It is a testament to Armstrong’s writing that she doesn’t come off as some flirty airhead enjoying her power over these two men – a dynamic I personally loathe. Neither was I thrilled that our feisty heroine had to play the submissive girlfriend around the biker gang. It comes to something when escapist fiction written predominantly for women still has the protagonist dancing to the chauvinistic values of some of the less enlightened among us. I would just add that if you have a youngster who enjoys browsing through your books, this one has some fairly steamy sex scenes, as well as mild violence.

That said, I found the murder mystery element far more enjoyable as the plot threw up a number of possible candidates and when the denouement came, I did not guess the culprit. I have a hunch that we haven’t seen the full impact of that one on Olivia or those close to her, as yet. What this book did do, was provide an enjoyable antidote to the rather grim near future apocalypse, I’d been previously reading – and that is, after all, what you require from a slice of romantic urban fantasy, isn’t it?
7.5/10

Weekly Wrap-Up – 3rd April 2016

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This is my second short summary of my week to share at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s Sunday meme, which is an awesome idea…

This week I completed and wrote reviews for five books. This isn’t quite as impressive as it first appears, as one is a novella and the other is a Children’s book I finished reading aloud to my grandson. As yet, I haven’t posted any of these, because they are mostly NetGalley arcs so I am waiting for their publishing dates before posting them on my blog.

The Last Gasp by Trevor Hoylethelastgasp
This book has an interesting history. It was first published in 1983, when it was treated as straight science fiction with emphasis on the fiction. However, as some of the predictions made by Hoyle have now become frighteningly accurate, given the grim finale, Quercus are now republishing it.
I shall be posting my review of this book on Thursday, 7th April.

DeceptionsDeceptions – Book 3 of the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong
I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this riveting series – see my review of Omens here. Now Olivia learns more about her parents tragic, bloody past and attempts to help them – when once more, a murder derails her life… I will probably be posting this review during the week, all being well.

 

Beaver Towers by Nigel Hintonbeavertowers
This charming Fantasy adventure entranced my granddaughter sufficiently that we went out and bought the series for her, and now my grandson is the right age, I started reading it to him. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting him to enjoy it, but as the book progressed, he also fell under the spell of Hinton’s storytelling, so that we have now moved straight onto the second book. This review will appear in due course.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshithestartouchedqueen
This lush, beautifully told Fantasy tale of an outcast princess and magical beings reminded me in places of N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. This book is due for publication on Tuesday 3rd May, so I will be posting my review Monday 2nd May.

 

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuireEveryheartadoorway
Earlier this year, I read Rosemary and Rue – read my review here, so immediately noticed this one on the NetGalley shelves. Though novellas aren’t generally my favourite storytelling format, I gave this one a whirl and was very glad I did. I’ll post the review tomorrow.

 

These are last week’s posts:

Weekly Wrap-Up – 27th March 2016
NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of World of Water by James Lovegrove
Teaser Tuesday – 29th March 2016
Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik
2016 Discovery Challenge – March Roundup
Review of Bronze Gods by A.A. Guirre
Favourite Space Operas – Part 2

It’s been a busy week, as I am able to spend a bit more time on my blog given I am on holiday from my teaching duties at present. My most popular post, was last Sunday’s Weekly Wrap Up, closely followed by my review of James Lovegrove’s World of Water.

Many thanks to all of you who visited and I am especially grateful to those of you who took the time to comment. I keep thinking about my fabulous grandfather – and how he would have loved to chat online about his favourite books with like-minded people. This, truly, is an amazing time to be alive…

Teaser Tuesday – 29th March 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Deceptions – Book 3 of the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong
52%: But they weren’t “that” sort of sound at all, simply them whispering and laughing, their voices too low for him even to make out what they were saying. That was enough, those whispers and laughs pounding through his skull like red-hot spikes.

BLURB:
TRUST NO ONE. Olivia Jones is desperate for the truth. The daughter of convicted serial killers, she hasDeceptions begun to suspect that her parents are innocent of their crimes. But who can she trust in a world where betrayal and deception hide in every shadow.
RISK EVERYTHING. Liv does have one secret weapon: a mysterious sixth sense that helps her to anticipate danger. The trouble is, this rare power comes with its own risks. There are dark forces that ant to exploit Liv’s talents – and will stop at nothing to win her to their side.
FACE THE TRUTH. Now Liv must decide, before it’s too late. Who does she love? Who is really on her side? And can she save herself without burning down everything that matters most?

I’d just finished reading an apocalyptic near-future offering featuring an environmental holocaust, so needed something a lot lighter, while flicking through my TBR list, this seemed to tick the box. I’ve read and enjoyed the other two books in the series – see my review of Omens here – and have been once more, whisked into Olivia’s world of improbable, paranormal events thousands of miles away. Thank goodness!

Favourite Fantasy Worlds – Part 2

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I posted my first five Favourite Fantasy Worlds a few weeks ago, so here are the next group. All of these worlds are well developed, nicely complex and provide satisfying backdrops for the stories. It’s no accident they are all series. One of the reasons I really enjoy multi-book story arcs is the extra layers of detail that can be built into the worldbuilding.

The Glass Thorns series by Melanie Rawn
This original, remarkable series is set in the equivalent age of the Tudors, with horse-drawn conveyances Touchstoneand charts the fortunes of a magical travelling theatre company. In the first book, Touchstone, they form their group and the next three books in the series records their highs and lows as they steadily get more prosperous and successful. Though that brings its own pressures. The glass thorns of the series title, are the drugs the actors dose themselves with, in order to heighten their emotions – or help them relax after the excitement of performance. I eagerly await each book and so far, have not been disappointed at the unfolding drama of these enormously talented, difficult people battling to produce their best work in less than ideal circumstances.

The Worlds of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones
This series of books covers the adventures of the state-appointed enchanter Chrestomanci, who is taskedCharmedLife with keeping law and order amongst the magical community. I have read most of these books to my granddaughter, after having devoured them myself several decades ago – my favourite is Charmed Life. And rereading them aloud has not only proved they can stand the test of time, but increased my respect at the quality of the writing, the crafting of the story arcs and the sheer quirky genius of Jones’ imagination. Yes – I know they are supposed to be for children, but give them a go if you appreciate magical mayhem. They are a joy for any age group.

The Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
nohumansinvolvedThis world is extensively portrayed in the thirteen-book series, with a number of accompanying novellas and short stories. It all kicks off with Bitten, where werewolf Clay accidentally bites his girlfriend – and her life is never the same again. But don’t go away with the idea that the series is all about werewolves – it also encompasses witches, necromancers and vampires. In short, anyone who dabbles with the paranormal or magic. Read my review of No Humans Involved. The world is enjoyable – I love the way Armstrong manages to slide from everyday normality into something else.

Einarinn by Juliet E. McKenna
Again, this extensive, detailed world has been produced over a long period of time through several series dangerous watersof books – there are five books within The Tales of Einarinn; four books in The Aldabreshin Compass; three books and a novella in The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution and her latest trilogy, still set within the same world – The Hadrumal Crisis. Juliet provides an excellent explanation of her world on her blog. They are all great reads – but my personal favourites are The Aldabreshin Compass series and The Hadrumal Crisis – see my review of Dangerous Waters.

The Inheritance trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
thehundredthousandkingdomsThis is an extraordinary series – particularly the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which is set in the city Sky where gods and mortal co-exist. See my review here. The book is pervaded by the sense of threat and a feeling that a set of rules apply here that our protagonist needs to know, but doesn’t fully understand. The second book, The Broken Kingdoms had me in tears at the end – and that doesn’t happen all that often, these days. If you like remarkable fantasy on an epic scale focusing on gods, then give it a go.

And there you have it… a few of my favourite fantasy worlds to date. What are your favourite fantastic worlds?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of the KINDLE Ebook Driven – An Otherworld Stories novella by Kelley Armstrong

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With this very popular werewolf series finally completed, Armstrong has been persuaded to offer those of us suffering from Clay and Elena withdrawal symptoms this novella to ease the pain…

DrivenCains are known for being big, brutish and not-too-bright. The mutt clan embodies all the supernatural world’s worst stereotypes about werewolves. But when young Davis Cain comes to the Pack for help, Alpha Elena Michaels can’t refuse him. However, Elena is also dealing with the Pack’s homegrown monster—Malcolm Danvers, onetime enforcer, full-time psycho, who suddenly appears and forces Elena to make one of the hardest decisions as Alpha. Will he be allowed back into the Pack, or has his past cruelty finally caught up with him?

That is an edited version of the rather chatty blurb in one of a series of novellas and short stories that Armstrong has written between the main novels of the series, designed for fans who want to see the character progression and some of the backstory that doesn’t make it into the main books. While I’m not a huge fan of short stories and short novellas, preferring the longer story arc and deeper characterisation that comes with novels, in this case, with 232 pages, I didn’t find it a problem. An important consideration is that I already know the main characters so well already, that some of the time normally taken to bond with protagonists and learn their strengths and weaknesses is not necessary. And I will stress, again, that Driven is designed for fans of the Otherworld series and not for readers who haven’t yet encountered any of the novels.

Himself ordered the Kindle ebook on its release in December, but the print copy that has only just been released comes with a series of illustrations which look fabulous. So… does the story deliver the goods? Oh yes – I loved this slice of Otherworld goodness. This is Armstrong back to her best, featuring Elena and Clay, the couple that – along with Paige – were always my favourites, anyway. And while this wrinkle isn’t wildly original, I like the way we see progression within the characters we have watched suffer through a thicket of adventures – and the emergence of a major antagonist who loomed over the series in his absence through exploring the damage he’d already inflicted on a number of protagonists.

All in all, this is a slick, enjoyable read and if you are a fan who’d appreciate revisiting the The Pack, then it is recommended. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure and you enjoy urban fantasy at its pacy best in a wide-ranging series whose popularity is well deserved – then track down Bitten, the first book in the series.
8/10

How Are They Doing?

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You’ve followed the protagonist and her friends and enemies through a whole series of books, finally closing the last volume with a sigh… So, which character would you like to revisit to see how they’re now getting on? Thanks to Anastasia, who first posed this question here, I’ve compiled my own list of top ten characters I’d like to catch up with.
In no particular order…
1. Corporal Carrot from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett – Okay – I lied. There is an order – GuardsGuardsbecause this wonderful body of work has to be one of the major starting points for any speculative fiction fan. And why Corporal Carrot out of the cast of Discworld characters? Because if anyone is liable to suddenly march out of obscurity and into a Hero’s storyline, then it’s got to be Corporal Carrot. And I’m betting even an ordinary day in his life is probably rather more event-filled than most folks – particularly if he and Angua ever get around to producing offspring…
2. Johan Eschback from the Ghosts of Columbia series by L.E. Modesitt Jr – This fascinating series is set in an alternate world where America was settled by the Dutch – and large parts of the world are uninhabitable because whenever anyone suffers a violent death, they return as ghosts able to cause havoc to the living. Johan Eschback is a retired secret agent, now happily remarried to an opera singer, who finds himself unable to turn down an offer to resume his former career in a series of enthralling adventures. I’d love to peep back into his life and ensure that he and the lovely Llysette are still thriving…
3. Jarra from the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards – This YA science fiction trilogy follows the adventures of Jarra, who is part of a minority of humans trapped on Earth due to an allergic reaction she suffers whenever travelling offplanet – leading to discrimination by the majority of humanity who have now relocated to more desirable planets. Is Jarra enjoying her new role? I really hope she retains all her energy and enthusiasm which makes her such an engaging protagonist.
4. Tintaglia from The Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb – This series of four books set in Hobb’s world concentrates on the dragons and their keepers struggling to find the fabled dragon city. Tintaglia has to be the most defiantly self-centred and arrogant protagonist I’ve ever cared about – and I’d love to know if the beautiful blue dragon is still engrossed in her own affairs to the exclusion of everyone and everything else.
5. Sookie Stackhouse from the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris – I read all the books and Deaduntildarkeven followed the first couple of series on TV until I decided that it was all a bit too gory. While the TV series followed the storyline of the books reasonably closely, it couldn’t successfully recreate the dry humour that ran throughout Sookie’s first person narrative, which makes her a solid favourite of mine. Is she still well and happy? I’d love to drop in and find out.

6. Nadia Stafford from the Nadia Stafford series by Kelley Armstrong – This entertaining trilogy features an ex-policewoman who embarked on a career as a hit woman after being kicked off the force for taking the law into her own hands. The story arc over this enjoyable thriller/whodunit series with a difference is a cracking read – and I’d love to know that if the choices Nadia finally made are still working for her…
7. Jon from the Jon and Lobo series by Mark L. Van Name – This science fiction romp is about a duo, so I suppose I should have also added Lobo’s name. Jon is an ex-labrat who has done some fairly awful things in his time – and teamed up with Lobo, a mouthy AI. Together they are a formidable twosome who try to provide might for the right. With mixed results… I love the non-stop action and sharp dialogue that accompanies this entertaining, well written offering. And would like to think that Jon enjoys a measure of peace in his life – though I have my doubts, given he has Lobo alongside…
8. Matthew Swift from the Midnight Mayor series by Kate Griffin – To say that Matthew is a troubled soul is something of an understatement, given that he’d been murdered and spent two years living in the wires cris-crossing London before being reincarnated as the spiritual saviour of the city. I’d like to think he is now putting his feet up – but somehow have my doubts. He does occasionally put in an appearance in Griffin’s spinoff series – and I wait patiently to see if he settles down. Or better still, steps away from the gruelling post of Midnight Mayor.
9. Lila from the Quantum Gravity series by Justina Robson – This genre mash-up is a tour de force and I still find myself sliding back to considering these remarkable books. The premise is that a quantum bomb has allowed creatures from other realities to bleed through into our world without anyone really noticing… And yes – you’re right. It sounds mad, but Robson makes it work. I’d love to know that Lila is still raising hell somewhere. Preferably a safe distance from where I am.
10. Devi from the Paradox series by Rachel Bach – This enjoyable space opera romp featuring adrenaline œF$¿Æ‘$8Òò¤»däå¸R8BIjunkie Devi, who gets into more scrapes than I’ve had hot dinners, is a blast from start to finish. And I’d like to think that she and Rupert are still dancing around each other and causing sufficient chaos to keep them happy, though probably – knowing Devi – she’s probably up to her eyebrows in trouble.

Those are my choices for protagonists I got to know and would love to be able to just peep into their futures and ensure everything is still going smoothly for them. Who would you like to revisit and check out?

Review of 13 – Book 13 of the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong

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Another Kelley Armstrong book in this well-established and popular series – but this is the finale. So has it sufficiently cranked up the tension so that fans feel it provides a fitting end?

13A sinister cult known as the Supernatural Liberation Movement is hell-bent on exposing the truth about supernaturals to the rest of the world. Their violent, ruthless plan has put everyone at risk, from werewolves to vampires, from witches to half-demons.

Savannah Levine – fiery and unpredictable – stands at the heart of the maelstrom. There is a new, dark magic inside her, granting her the power to summon spells of terrifying strength. But whether this magic is a gift or a curse, no one knows. On the eve of battle, all the major players must come together in a last, desperate fight for survival – Elena and Clay, Adam and Savannah, Paige and Lucas, Jeremy and Jaime, Hope, Eve and more… They are fighting for their lives. They are fighting for their loved ones. They are fighting for the Otherworld.

Firstly, if you have got hold of 13 without reading any of the other books in the series, then don’t. If I were you, I’d give myself the pleasure of going right back to the first book, Bitten, and start from there. However if you simply don’t have the time or stamina to undertake reading the first twelve books, then at the very least read Waking the Witch and Spell Bound. Because unlike Armstrong’s other books in this series – these final three are not standalone stories, they are effectively a trilogy told primarily in Savannah’s first person viewpoint and run on from one to the other. And while occasionally Armstrong tosses the reader a quick resume, it doesn’t happen all that often and you will spend far too much time floundering amid a welter of characters and events you know nothing about. Which would be a real shame.

Unlike the two previous books, 13 takes off right from the start in a whirl of action which doesn’t let up until the very end. Hardly surprising when Armstrong sets out to tie up each of her main characters’ narrative arcs by the end of the book, along with giving us an epic battle. As the blurb makes clear, Savannah is the nexus for most of the action, with occasional third person contributions from the other main protagonists in the series. Does it work? Hm. Not entirely sure… At the time I was so wrapped up in the story, that I was fine with it. But then the house could have fallen down around my ears and I’m not sure I could have pulled away from the book. Because whatever else Armstrong does, she produces books with page-turner appeal as the stakes were raised ever higher and every section of the Otherworld became embroiled in this mad scheme.

Apparently, I’m not the only person who was a tad disappointed that Savannah got to be the star of this final trilogy – many others, like me, wanted to see Elena slink through the action as the Alpha of her pack. However, what I couldn’t deny was that this trilogy gave Savannah the opportunity to mature and grow from the rather bratty, entitled teen she was, to a young woman who was more thoughtful – and above all, far more appreciative of her magic. We also got a resolution to the non-romance bubbling away between Savannah and Adam, although I found this a little rushed as it seemed to unfold in the rare lulls between various bomb explosions, kidnappings, home invasions and cold-blooded plotting.

I also enjoyed Hope’s story arc and the way in which Armstrong managed to braid all the various characters into this last novel and provide them with a fitting end. Any grizzles? Well… I think there should have been just a little more death and destruction – war is a pitiless, messy business and I personally like to end a long-running series with more of a lump in my throat. But that’s probably just the fact I’m a conflict junkie.

All credit to Armstrong, she certainly pulls off a climactic ending to the series – and that’s a whole lot harder to achieve than she makes it look. I’m very glad Himself spotted these books – reading episodes of Otherworld goodness has provided a welcome respite from a damp, gloomy winter.
9/10

Review of Frostbitten – Book 10 of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong

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Himself has discovered that Armstrong had been busy completing this entertaining series, so decided to track down the books we hadn’t yet read. Starting with Bitten, this urban fantasy series charted the stories of various female protagonists in Armstrong’s supernatural world. And Frostbitten returns to Elena, who featured in Bitten, with this next slice of her adventure.

frostbittenAfter years of struggle, Elena Michaels has finally accepted her life as a werewolf, and learned how to control her wild side. At least, that’s what she believes when she sets off to investigate a series of gruesome murders outside Anchorage. The truth, however, is more complicated. Trapped in a frozen, unforgiving terrain, Elena is forced to confront a deadly secret, and her own untamed nature…

Hm. I’m not overly impressed with this blurb – it makes this book sound like Elena spends a chunk of the narrative agonising over the nature of her own supernatural status… how she is going to cope… what will happen next… While all those issues are present, they are niftily interleaved amongst the full-on action that kicks off right at the start of the book and don’t stop until the final page.

One of the things that impresses me about Armstrong is how much these books vary in tone, depending on who the protagonist is. In No Humans Involved – see my review here – the tension builds slowly and steadily throughout as Jamie battles to work out exactly what is going on. In Personal Demon – see my review here – Hope and Lucas are trying to work out who is responsible for the trail of mayhem, so my attention was held by their unravelling the puzzle. Whereas in Frostbitten, we get to know fairly quickly exactly who is responsible for the murders – the tension comes in whether Elena and Clay can prevail against the mutts. And what Elena is going to decide to do regarding the future of their Pack…

I really enjoyed this update on a character I loved in previous books, and I think Armstrong has achieved a difficult trick – to show a character’s maturation and greater sense of responsibility without her losing her edge. Which is a great deal harder than she makes it look. It was also enjoyable to take Elena right out of her comfort zone and deposit her in a different part of the country – Armstrong has been smart in this long-running series to swing the action around in a variety of different settings, which has also helped to retain the freshness and excitement of each story. I also very much like how she has portrayed the relationship between Elena and Clay, now they are settled with a family.

She tackles a difficult subject – and one I’ve become increasingly intolerant as a plot device – Elena’s feelings when cornered by a rapist. While I’m not going to divulge how she fares – that strays into spoiler territory – I was gratified to see that even though as a werewolf, she is fitter and stronger than the average woman, she was absolutely terrified, and made no bones about it. Quite right, too.

Any woman who has been in that situation knows it is an utterly horrible experience and I get very fed up when writers serve it up as just one more assault. And when the heroine bounces back, right as a trivet so that by the end of the novel, she quite happy to resume her sexual relationship with her boyfriend – the book goes flying across the room, along with a barrage of language I won’t be repeating here. Armstrong has her strong, capable heroine very afraid to the extent that she finds it difficult to function – in other words, she feels like the rest of us when confronted with such a threat.

So, does the story come to a successful conclusion? Oh yes – I was delighted with this slice of werewolf edginess and am eagerly looking forward to reading the next in the series.
9/10