Wednesday, August 26, 2015
The triangle between Olivia, Gabriel and Ricky gathers strength in this installment. Olivia takes her physical pleasure from Ricky and her emotional fulfillment from Gabriel. However, up this point the men have been best of friends and have not interfered with each other's roles in Olivia's life. That changes somewhat in this installment and may change further in the future, but for some reason I believe that no matter what happens these three will remain friends.
Personally, Gabriel's tortured and emotionally stunted character is my very favorite, and that is probably because to me he is the one in need of emotional growth. More of his personality and emotions are revealed in this installment which I liked. Olivia, who is great at figuring out clues to mysteries and omens, is clueless when it comes to men and Gabriel in particular. She seems to be a fan of instant self-gratification and her rush to get physically involved with Ricky is a disaster waiting to happen. More so because she has allowed that relationship to deepen when in fact her feelings for Ricky are not what they should be. There is nothing to dislike about Ricky and I don't believe there will be, on the contrary, he is a great guy and deserves better from Olivia, but I can't help but wish he wasn't there. That is impossible, of course, since he has become key to the overall story arc not just part of Olivia's personal life.
Don't get me wrong, this installment is not all about relationships, it has plenty of action as Armstrong focuses on a particular mystery and the overall story arc evolves. However, as I mentioned in my review of Visions, the characters and relationships do drive the story. The people of Cainsville, Huntsmen, Olivia's parents the Larsens and other beings make key contributions to this interesting, fast read. I read the book in one sitting. The hints of Welsh folklore that began in previous books are further developed and we learn more of what awaits Gabriel, Olivia, and Ricky. At the end, however, we again go back to Olivia's pesky emotional/physical relationship with her men. The overall story arc depends on three people with problems: Olivia with her lack of judgment, need for love and ingrained fear of betrayal, Gabriel with his stunted emotions, neurotic fear of abandonment, and denial, and charming/ruthless Ricky, a young man with something to prove, just now coming out of the dark. The question here is what is destined to be vs. free will. I wonder.
Despite my personal niggles about Olivia's character, this is a fast paced UF installment that moves the overall story arc forward in a big way. Armstrong maintains that edgy atmosphere I loved in the first two books, and the interaction between characters, main and secondary, continue to keep that sense of mystery alive. For those of you who want to know, in her website Armstrong posted that books 4 and 5 have been sold, and she will wrap up the series by then. Good news! Recommended.
Omens, Book #1
Visions, Book #2
Deceptions, Book #3
Monday, August 25, 2014
Visions begins the day after Omens ends with Olivia finding the dead body of a woman in her car. While waits for help from Gabriel, the body disappears, and she questions whether it was a death omen. Their brand new partnership is broken when Olivia distances herself from Gabriel after learning about his deal with her ex-fiancé James. Feeling hurt and betrayed by Gabriel, Olivia re-establishes contact with James who wants her back, while at the same time beginning a sexual relationship with the young biker and son of the Satan Saints' gang leader Ricky Gallagher. Yet, as the story progresses, Olivia continues to reach out to Gabriel, and it is from Gabriel that she seeks intimacy and with whom she feels complete, settled and happy. That seems to be mutual as Gabriel and Olivia become quietly but fiercely protective of each other.
Armstrong develops the urban fantasy aspects of this series through events unfolding around Olivia's investigation into the disappearance of a local Cainsville girl, a girl who looks just like the dead body she saw in her car and coincidentally a lot like Olivia. Cainsville and the townspeople become central in Visions and the exploration into the mythological side of the series begins in earnest. Olivia's powers are no longer restricted to reading omens, and she experiences dreamlike visions when she stumbles into a mysterious empty house in Cainsville. New players are introduced as Olivia, Gabriel, and even Ricky and James get pulled into an increasingly dangerous game with both Olivia and Gabriel becoming the main targets of some powerful otherworldly beings. But how is all this related to the Larsens? And why? Clues abound in this installment if, as Gabriel says, "you just pay attention."
Visions is driven by the characters and evolving relationships: Olivia, Gabriel, Ricky, and James, and Gabriel, Olivia and Cainsville residents (Rose, Patrick, Ida, Walter, Veronica). The characters and the relationships they establish are the most compelling aspect of this novel. And it is through them that everything else comes to fruition, including the mystery that surrounds the murders and the Welsh folklore Armstrong utilizes to build the magical aspects of the urban fantasy -- omens, visions, horses, hounds, ravens, fairy circles, and more. So far, I am enjoying her modern twist on the folklore. The mystery in Visions is weaker, or let's say less complex, than the one in Omens, however, by the end Armstrong beautifully ties it to the main story arc.
Most of the novel is again narrated from Olivia's first point of view perspective, intermingled with key chapters written in the third point of view from different characters, with Gabriel's chapters providing the most interesting personal views of himself and Olivia. His character is the most attractive and mysterious of this series so far. Olivia ironically refers to herself as a "special snowflake" at one point in the narrative. Well, with Gabriel, Ricky, and James fighting for her attention (and others courting her favor), she certainly fits the description.
I hate triangles even when there is only a possibility of romance involved as is the case between Olivia and Gabriel. I simply love Gabriel's character. James is a dangerous whacko who is being influenced so he doesn't count, but the highly lusty relationship between Olivia and Ricky is surprising. Having said that, I find Armstrong portrayal of both Ricky and Gabriel as males who don't judge Olivia for her personal relationships extremely refreshing. I do wonder if that will last? And, yes, Olivia is strong, intuitive and trying to figure out who she is, but at times I find her to be somewhat immature and impulsive with a touch of arrogance.
I love the ending. There is a step forward for Gabriel. It seems like the main story arc will pick up some momentum now that we have some major players and know a bit more about Cainsville. A new character will be added to the mix and I can't wait to see how that will play out! Do I really have to wait another year for the next book? Sigh…
Category: Urban Fantasy
Publisher/Release Date: Dauton/August 19, 2014
Visit Kelley Armstrong here..
Omens, Book #1
Visions, Book #2
Sunday, October 6, 2013
URBAN FANTASY AND FANTASY with an edge and a dash of the dark stuff. If you don't like too much of the creepy stuff that comes with horror but enjoy a bit of edge, urban fantasy, and fantasy can provide that. The following is a list of books I highly enjoyed, beginning with a few I read recently:
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Novel 2013, Fantasy) - An adult fairy tale with the Gaiman magic and a darker, more adult plot at its core. There are some pretty disturbing scenes in this fairy tale, and not all of them come from the magic-side of things.
Written in Red by Anne Bishop (Novel, 2013 - Fantasy) - This fantasy piece has some fantastically gruesome shifters! I mean these are not cookie cutter vampires or shifters. The story has darkness and edge with a dash of warmth and humor providing balance. A great beginning to a new fantasy series by Ms. Bishop.
Omens (Cainsville #1) by Kelley Armstrong (Novel, 2013 - Urban Fantasy) - Omens is the beginning of a new urban fantasy series by Armstrong. However, the fantasy aspects of the story are a bit blunted in the first book, but overall the story is definitely unsettling -- more of a suspense read with light paranormal elements and an edgy flavor.
Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear (Novella, 2010 - Fantasy) This novella with necromancy as a central theme is gorgeously dark. It also serves as a sort of prequel to Elizabeth Bear's Eternal Sky fantasy series.
SPECULATIVE FICTION ANYONE?
In Search Of and Others by Will Ludwigsen (Collection 2013, Speculative Fiction) is one of the best collections of speculative fiction short stories I read this past year. It has those disturbing, unsettling pieces, and the ones that just make you think and wonder.
The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Doctor Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth (Illustrated Book, 2013 - Speculative Fiction/Horror) is one of the most creative pieces I read this year. This book has some magnificent illustrations and a very short story about Doctor Spencer Black, separate they are a curiosity, together they become a uniquely gruesome experience.
Fungi edited by Orrin Grey and Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Anthology, 2012 - Speculative Fiction/Horror) I began reading Fungi last year, finished it in 2013, and never reviewed it. It's a shame because this is such a great collection. I have favorite pieces that are stuck in my mind as if I read them yesterday, either because they're disturbing or downright unique. Two quick examples: "Last Bloom on the Sage by Andrew Penn Romine" is a memorable short with fantastic characters, world building, action and a plot that combines western steampunk with mushroom weirdness. And, in "Midnight Mushrumps by W. H. Pugmire" the beginning reads like a dream that quickly gains the atmosphere of a dark fairy tale and veers off into a dank, fungi infested, horror-filled nightmare.
READING: Moving on to a list of books I'm reading at the moment, you will find everything from the mild to pure unadulterated horror!
Still Life with Murder (Gilded Age Mystery #1) by P. B. Ryan (2003 Historical Mystery/Suspense) I saw a recommendation for this book at Li's site Me and My Books and decided to check it out. I'm already 25% through the book. It is set in the midst of aristocratic Boston during the Civil War and the main character is an Irish immigrant. It has an upstairs/downstairs sort of flavor with scenes that range from posh settings to the Bostonian Irish ghettos. I'm really liking it. Not a horror or speculative fiction read, but definitely a good mystery so far.
The Dust of Wonderland by Lee Thomas (2013, Novel Rerelease - LGBT Speculative Fiction/Horror) This story, set in New Orleans, is all about atmosphere and suspense. Lee Thomas always keeps me at the edge of my seat, and that's exactly what happened as soon as I began reading the prologue. I'm about 25% through the book and will let you know how it turns out. Mr. Thomas is an author whose works I absolutely, positively recommend if you want to read excellent spec-fic/suspense/horror that has a deeper, more meaningful subplot at its core. He does not disappoint.
Zombies: Shambling through the Ages ed. by Steve Berman (2013, Anthology - Horror) I am reading this collection at the moment. I am enjoying the creative way zombies are portrayed by the different authors, some of them are quite unusual. The book is divided in such a way that it more or less gives a history of the zombie, so the stories follow a fascinating progression. I was really hooked by the first short story "Blood Marker by Victoria Janssen," which almost serves as a sort of introduction to the Before Lazarus section and sets up a precedent for the uniqueness that follows.I have more! My list was rather long this year, but I paired it down to ten which was not easy. I also have a "want to read" list and TBR pile that is a mile long. Do you read spooky stories, mysteries or crime suspense during October? What books do you recommend?
2012 Halloween Recs
2012 Xtra Scary Recs
2011 Halloween Reads
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Omens begins with a hook. The prologue is uncommon in that it is narrated from the point of view of a 2 1/2 year old little girl. It begins in such a way that the reader doesn't know whether she is in danger or not. Then the reader is pulled into a beautiful happy moment only to be yanked into a terrifying moment of loss and pain. That short beginning is a roller-coaster and a little taste of what is to come.
Moving forward, the story shifts to Olivia Taylor-Jones, a 30 year-old wealthy heiress whose life consists of volunteering at the family's sponsored charity, writing speeches for her politically ambitious fiancée James Morgan, and taking care of her self-centered widowed mother. Olivia's life is turned upside down when out of the blue she finds out that she is adopted and that her biological parents are the most notorious serial killers known in Chicago's recent history, Todd and Pamela Larsen, making her real name Eden Larsen. The story begins to take a dark turn when overwhelmed by the paparazzi, feeling emotionally and physically rejected by her loved ones, angry and reeling from the news, Olivia takes off on her own only to find herself unable to find a job or a place to stay. After doing a good deed, she finally finds affordable housing and a job at the diner in a weird little town called Cainsville.
The above is very important to the story, particularly the feelings of rejection from her adoptive mother and fiancée, because it sets up the reasons behind Olivia's reactions throughout the rest of this story and I'm sure for what is to come later on in the series. But frankly for me, the story really takes off once Olivia arrives in the weird little town of Cainsville, with its elderly population and hundreds of stone gargoyles seemingly guarding the place. This is where Olivia meets Gabriel Walsh, nephew to the local psychic and coincidentally the unscrupulous attorney who represented Pamela Larsen during her appeal. Olivia also meets the other peculiar residents of Cainsville. People who don't seem to be surprised or taken aback when Olivia sees omens and predicts possible events based on them.
I am quite impressed with Omens. In fact, I read it twice before writing this review because it left me with such an unsettled feeling and sense of foreboding that I had to get back to it to find out exactly what it was about it that generated that feeling. See, Omens reads like a mystery suspense with Olivia hiring Gabriel to help her investigate the events that lead to the gruesome murders supposedly committed by her parents. There are paranormal elements introduced in this first book, but it is a subtle introduction that is really well integrated with the mystery suspense plot. There is, however, a suppressed sense of foreboding throughout the whole story that makes for a heavy atmosphere. It a kind of... waiting. The stepping stones are there to build the fantasy side of this series as Armstrong combines the strong ties found to Fae Welsh mythology in Cainsville with science and a slight edge of horror and violence found in Chicago as the urban setting.
Olivia/Liv/Eden has a marvelous narrative voice that gets better as the story progresses -- particularly when she's engaged in dialog with Gabriel. There is a case of nurture vs. nature going on with her personality. There is character growth for Olivia within this story alone. I can only imagine how much more growing there will be for her in the future and cannot wait to see how far Armstrong takes this woman who is just discovering who she really is, and what she may be capable of doing. I'm particularly curious about her fledgling omen-interpreting powers and how far she can go with them. You'll have to read the book to find out how omens work and how Olivia is connected to them.
Most of the story is told from Olivia's point of view, but there are single, short chapters peppered throughout the book narrated from different characters' points of view, including Gabriel. I like that. In some instances these chapters give the reader insight into how Olivia is viewed by others, in others they give clues as to events that are going on, but also important is the fact that through them, the reader gains an insight into Gabriel's personality. He is a key character. Gabriel is a frustrating, acquisitive asshole protective of himself first and always, but he is also mysterious, fascinating, and a man worth knowing. He is not a seductive man though... in fact, he seems awkward when it comes to that. A bit of a contradiction all around, and one with good potential primarily because the man has vulnerabilities even if at this point they seem to be few. Olivia, thank goodness, has his number, knows just how to deal with the man, and called him on his bullshit too. I am pretty sure that is the one reason Gabriel and Olivia's relationship worked for me.
The plot in Omens gains momentum as it progresses. There are violent deaths, ominous moments that lead to that sense of foreboding I mentioned above, and a tad of horror borrowed here and there that give the plot an edgy feel, all balanced by the light humor provided by Olivia's excellent narrative voice. Armstrong begins the series with a subtle construction of her world, but weaves in so many complex threads in this first book that by the end there are questions upon questions that need answers. There is a satisfying conclusion to Omens, but there is so much more to come that it left me panting for more. More Olivia, more Gabriel, more Cainsville, more suspense.
Category: Urban Fantasy
Series: Cainsville #1
Publisher/Release Date: Dutton Adult/August 20, 2013
Visit Kelley Armstrong here.