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review 2017-11-15 20:29
The Masked Truth - Kelley Armstrong

I was rather impressed by this book. The writing style is pretty good, and the opening prologue is one of the more impactful ones I've seen in a YA novel. Riley is babysitting for these two parents, when suddenly burglars invade the house and kill them. She ends up going to therapy because she's having anxiety over the incident, and the story goes on from there.

 

There's a lot of deaths in this book.

 

The main part of the story involves a hostage situation. Riley is at a therapy sleepover with several other teenagers, and three kidnappers storm the place, armed with guns. At first it seems like it's just a hostage situation and everything will be okay - Riley happens to be the daughter of a (deceased) cop, and feels she knows how all of this works - but not everything goes to plan, and soon we have a lot of dead kids all over the place.

 

In all the confusion, she manages to escape from the kidnappers with one of the other guys in the therapy group - Max, who turns out to suffer from schizophrenia. The doors and windows are all locked, and their kidnappers now seem intent on killing them all. Before long, everyone starts dropping like flies.

 

That's the first part of the book. The SECOND part, strangely enough, is when Riley and Max escape the building and manage to call 911...and the cops suspect Max for being responsible for the deaths of 7 kids and both adult therapists. A bit odd, in my opinion. I would have thought that the author would focus on other aspects, rather than the reasons why Max was framed for mass-murder.

 

Riley is a strong character in her own right. She was alright. Max, too, is a rather interesting person, and the chapters are indispersed with his personal thoughts. He's constantly second-guessing himself, is struggling with his own mental health (he has to cope without his meds for a few hours, which is pretty bad for him), and has this internal voice in his head which seems to be constantly arguing with him. I don't know much about schizophrenia myself, but I thought it was presented rather well. 

 

It did get a bit annoying after a while, though. I just wanted to see how the plot was going to turn out, and instead the author gave me another huge chapter about Max's thoughts on what had already happened.

 

Also, don't ask me why, but he had this really dumb British stereotype surrounding him. He was saying stuff like "Tally ho!" and "Jolly good" as if he was some posh old-fashioned royal out of the middle of the London in the 80s. Yes, he's British, and half the time Max was joking about his mannerisms, but seriously now?

 

I mean, come on. I'm British. No one talks like that anymore. Even the goddamn Queen doesn't talk like that, least of all teenagers! Does the author really not know how to write an English character without resorting to really awkward stereotypes?

 

I wouldn't call it racist or anything - British stereotypes aren't really that insulting (I can't tell you how often someone tries to ask if I drink English tea, and ironically I've never drunk tea). But it looks a bit embarrassing.

 

Here's my other gripe about the book. Loads of teenagers die in the first half of the book, mainly because the gunmen have shot them in some evil or sadistic fashion. It's all very scary and edgy.

 

Or at least it would be, if I actually knew any of these characters for more than a chapter beforehand. Seriously. I was barely introduced to them. The first person dies just a few chapters in, not long after the prologue where a similar thing happened. It was just really jarring and I found it hard to care at times.

 

At one point, one of the other girls gets close to Riley and tells her how brave she is and that she's a hero for keeping everyone together...a character who had said almost nothing up to this point. I was rolling my eyes so hard at her, and, sure enough, she gets shot less than a chapter later.

 

I get what the author is trying to go for here, but could you at least give us a chance to know some of these characters beforehand?? They know each other's names. This is a therapy sleepover, for crying out loud! I wanted to know their backgrounds about their therapy! It was done really well in other books, but here...we just didn't know anything about them! At least, not until the last minute, once it was too late. I had trouble remembering the names of the therapists.

 

Instead, these mentally ill kids are just treated like fodder to be killed off by the gunmen. I guess the author was in a hurry to kill them all off, so she didn't bother to give us much background about them. Oh, and there's a gay kid too. He got sent to therapy by his homophobic dad, and he dies too.

 

Once I got to the end of the book, however, there were quite a few interesting plot twists. Namely about how this wasn't a hostage situation at all, and a lot of things were planned at the start. I expected that all this would tie back to the couple who were murdered in the prologue, and naturally it did. A few nice surprises were in store, and then a few more people die before we really get to know them, and...

 

...oh yeah, and the forced romance. Riley and Max have known each other a day. One. Day. Even Riley herself acknowledges this. I just skimmed over the kisses.

 

Overall, this turned to be very enjoyable, especially towards the end. I probably wouldn't read it again, though. All those plot twists lose their effect after the first time. It was good to see some coverage of mental illness, but the way that loads of characters simply get killed before we've got the chance to know them was a significant flaw in the reading. If you're going to kill seven teenagers, at least make us care about them first.

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-11-02 16:32
"City of the Lost - Casey Duncan #1" by Kelley Armstrong
The City of the Lost - Kelley Armstrong

I'm a fan of Kelly Armstrong's thrillers.  When she sets the supernatural aside it seems to me that her writing gets grittier and darker and her strong women become more complex. In her Nadia Stafford series, the female lead was an ex-cop turned assassin for hire.  In "City of the Lost" the twenty-something female lead is a homicide detective who shot and killed her former boyfriend when she was eighteen. I love the way Kelley Armstrong navigates the moral fog that this produces and gets beneath the skin of good people who have done bad things.

 

The premise of "City of the Lost" is one I haven't come across before. Part of the fun of the book is arriving at that premise so I won't share it here beyond saying that it results in our Casey Duncan, our female lead, hunting down a killer in an isolated, primitive environment deep in a vast wilderness of a Canadian forest.

 

The first third of the book is set in a city and yields Casey's backstory, sets her up for the wilderness and shows us the strong, fierce but haunted person she's become. The writing is powerful. The action is intense. The violence and threat are so vivid that they become hard to take. This is first-rate stuff.

 

The second third of the book is set in Casey's new environment and is filled with discovery, the possibility of making a fresh start and the reality of multiple, fairly gruesome murders that need to be solved. The pace is more relaxed but the tension is still there and the novelty of Casey's situation and her reaction to it more than compensated for a slow down in the violence. I particularly like Casey's take on how "a climate of expectation" can put women in male-dominated, frontier-type environments at risk.

 

The third part of the book solves the murder mystery in a reasonably satisfying way and moves forward the relationships between the main characters. For me, it didn't fully deliver on the potential of the first part of the book. The romance parts, although handled well, seemed to be a little too protracted and too fueled by hard to sustain misunderstandings.

 

Overall, I thought this was an intriguing thriller in an original and compelling setting, populated with believable characters. The women are especially well drawn and the impact of abuse and guilt is shown with skill and empathy but without becoming maudlin or didactic.

 

There's a second book in the series. This surprised me as the first book seems to tie everything up but I'm sure Kelley Armstrong will have some original twists to offer so I'll be giving it a try.

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review 2017-11-01 20:25
Bitten / Kelley Armstrong
Bitten - Kelley Armstrong

Elena Michaels is the world’s only female werewolf. And she’s tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, a life where her most important job is hunting down rogue werewolves. Tired of a world that not only accepts the worst in her–her temper, her violence–but requires it. Worst of all, she realizes she’s growing content with that life, with being that person.

So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where she’s trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him. Once this is over, she’ll be squared with the Pack and free to live life as a human. Which is what she wants. Really.

 

I read this for the “Werewolves” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

I keep reminding myself that this is a first book in a series and that I often like later books better, once the author has found their groove. I’m fence sitting with a 3 star rating on this one because I’ve got some issues with it, but I found it interesting enough to finish it, and not just for the sake of my Bingo game!

Elena, the main character, drove me crazy. She should actually be a cat of some kind, because no matter where she was, she thought she wanted to be somewhere else. If she was in Toronto, she was thinking she’d be happier in Stonehaven. Then she’s pissed off when she gets summoned to Stonehaven and wants to be back in Toronto. She’s supposedly trying to build an ordinary life for herself with Philip in Toronto, but pretty much immediately is having sex with Clayton when she returns to the werewolf fold. Rinse and repeat the pattern above—whichever man she’s currently with, she wants the other one.

Philip, although we see very little of him (and never from his point of view), haunts the background of most of the book. He’s an unusually patient man, who spent months trying to get to know Elena and who seems to have been stealthily sneaking more ties into their relationship as time passes. What he finds attractive is somewhat of a mystery—he is sleeping with a woman who sneaks out in the middle of the night regularly and doesn’t explain why. She’s slim, of course, from all that nocturnal wolf running and starving herself so as not to display her amazing werewolf appetite, but she admits that she hates clothes shopping and doesn’t concentrate too much on her appearance. She’s secretive, understandably to those of us in the know, but not the slightest bit creative about her excuses for her behaviour and Philip doesn’t seem to have the wherewithal to interrogate her in the way I think a normal lover would.

In the foreground is Clay, who doesn’t care about people at all, just werewolves. He liked Elena, so he made sure to bite her in order to trap her in his world. He’s not the alpha (that would be Jeremy) but he’s still an overbearing a-hole who only listens to Elena when he wants to. Mind you, he has some reasons for that, since she seems to lie to herself quite regularly about what she truly wants and what is realistic for a woman in her situation.

So the ending of this volume was no surprise to me—there was only one way things could resolve, it was just a matter of the path that Armstrong took me on to get there. I know that a lot of my GR friends who like urban fantasy love this series, so I am going to persevere for a book or two more to see if I can get into it. After all, I would love to support a Canadian writer and to read fantasy set in my own country.

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review 2017-10-23 15:21
A Very Satisfying Conclusion
Rituals: The Cainsville Series - Kelley Armstrong

So first of all, it's hard to give this book the review it deserves since it's the fifth and final one in the series and doing so would give all kinds of spoiler away. That being said, I looked back at all my ratings and each book has garnered at least 4/5 stars with the last two capturing a complete 5/5 from me. I think that shows what a strong series this has been for me and how much I have loved it. And while I am sad to see it over, man, what a ride.

I'm not going to mention the plot, but will go as far as saying that this installment introduces us to some pretty awful characters (some we thought were dead) some terribly horrible supernatural creatures (the sluagh) and tow Dryads who add comic relief in a book where you wouldn't expect it. In fact, Helia and Alexios are such a great addition to this tale and I truly enjoyed every scene they were in. Finally, I have to address the love triangle. There is a strong one in this book but because it has been woven so delicately into the Fae folklore and prophecy, it was not annoying or overwhelming. In fact, it is very well developed and there is absolutely no insta-love. And I waited 5 long books to find out how this element played out and can I say I'm thrilled with the conclusion. In fact, I'm so happy with Liv's decision, I may have jumped up and down. Also, I love that fact that Armstrong doesn't wait until the very end to disclose this wrap-up and that once its is disclosed, it continues to be worked into the plot.

So if you can't tell, I would highly recommend the Cainsville series. I've read the entire Women of the Underworld series (minus a few short story/novella collections) and while I loved it as well, Cainsville clearly outdid it. Plus, there's an adorable Fae Hound in this book who I dearly love.

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review 2017-10-18 17:04
City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong
The City of the Lost - Kelley Armstrong

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret: when she was in college, she killed a man. She was never caught, but he was the grandson of a mobster and she knows that someday this crime will catch up to her. Casey's best friend, Diana, is on the run from a violent, abusive ex-husband. When Diana's husband finds her, and Casey herself is attacked shortly after, Casey knows it's time for the two of them to disappear again.

Diana has heard of a town made for people like her, a town that takes in people on the run who want to shed their old lives. You must apply to live in Rockton and if you're accepted, it means walking away entirely from your old life, and living off the grid in the wilds of Canada: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, no computers, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council's approval. As a murderer, Casey isn't a good candidate, but she has something they want: She's a homicide detective, and Rockton has just had its first real murder. She and Diana are in. However, soon after arriving, Casey realizes that the identity of a murderer isn't the only secret Rockton is hiding—in fact, she starts to wonder if she and Diana might be in even more danger in Rockton than they were in their old lives.

 
********
 
I was interested in reading the book from the first time I saw it. A town for people that needs to get away. A secret town in the middle of nowhere. It sounded bloody fantastic. But, sometimes my expectations are too high, and when it came to this book did I expect a more mysterious and darker story.
 
Now, I don't say that the City of the Lost is a bad book, it started off interestingly with Casey and her friend Diana needing to get away, especially Diana after she once again had problems with her ex-boyfriend who beat her badly. Casey's problem is a bit more complicated, she killed a man when she was in college and have since then been waiting for the day the past would catch up with her. And, now it seems that it has happened. For them is Rockton a perfect solution, although Casey because of her past has a hard time getting approved for going to the town, in the end, is she allowed, but there are some conditions for her and one of the reasons they agree to accept her is because they need a homicide detective to solve a murder.
 
It's in Rockton that I felt the story started to drag now and then, it just went on and on, sometimes it felt that the investigation didn't go anywhere. I was also a bit disappointed with the town, it felt that it was just really bad people there and if you were a woman then you had to watch out (I think I had a town like the one in Pines (Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch in mind, normal but mysterious). There were some promising things with the story, the rumors about cannibals were interesting, it just never becomes much more than a rumor. Then, the obvious and expected romance occurred (I have read reviews of the books so I was prepared), and it took more time away from the investigations, but at the same time was it an important part of the story that I can't discuss since it would spoiler the book.
 
The ending, well it was good, perhaps not fantastically good, but Casey did solve the murder and all. She also discovered some secrets that someone close to her had kept and I loved the confrontation between Casey and this person.
 
So, City of the Lost did not turn out to be this fantastic book I had hoped for. It was more of a bumpy ride with both ups and downs. Would I read the next book? Yes, I would! I did enjoy more of the book than I disliked. I just hope the next book will have a less bumpy ride.
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