Tag Archives: Women of the Otherworld

Omens (Book I of the Cainsville Series) by Kelley Armstrong – A Review

GUEST POST – teachergirl 73

If you have read any of my earlier posts regarding Kelley Armstrong, then you know that I am a huge fan. Armstrong hooked me for life after her first novel Bitten, and I know that when I pick up her books, that I’ll be entertained. That is not to say that I love all of her works the same, but I know that even if the story line isn’t my favourite, it will still be well written.

SYNOPSIS – Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Armstrong-Kelley-Omens-794x529Omens is the first book in a series that Armstrong began in 2013. It is a departure from her Otherworld series, which introduced us to Armstrong’s perspective of the world of werewolves, witches, vampires and other supernatural beings. To be honest, even now that I’ve finished Omens, I still can’t quite put my finger on what supernatural vibes are going on other than there are hints of the occult and old superstitions related to paganism. Olivia, our protagonist of the story, seems to have the ability to foretell events that may happen through the interpretation of “old wives tales”. She seems unaware of why she has this talent, and throughout most of the book, she is trying to deny the importance of these superstitious beliefs which becomes increasingly difficult for her as the story progresses.

IMG_0087Beyond this unusual talent of Olivia’s, I was really left wondering where Armstrong was headed with this story. Armstrong is very good at cliffhangers. Years ago, as I was reading Armstrong’s YA series, The Darkest Powers Trilogy: Summoning, Awakening and Reckoning, I was impressed with her skills for keeping her readers hooked from chapter to chapter and then from book to book. The way that Omens is wrapped up, you are definitely left wanting more, if only to figure out what the heck is going on in the increasingly creepy town of Cainsville,  where our heroine ends up calling home. A town which seems to be under the ever watchful eye of the many gargoyles found around town, including some gargoyles that only come out at night.  Did I mention that the town is creepy?


 

When the plague struck Chicago, the townspeople here erected the gargoyles, and nary a soul was lost to the Black Death.”
“The bubonic plague predates Chicago by about five hundred years.”
He lowered himself to the bench. “I know. I was very disappointed when I found out. Almost as bad as when I learned there were no fairies. The world is much more interesting with goblins and plagues.”
Unless you catch the plague.”
Kelley Armstrong, Omens


 

In Omens, we are dropped into the life of Olivia Taylor-Jones, a member of Chicago’s high-society elite, who finds her life blown apart as she learns that nothing is really as it seems. Olivia is really Eden Larsen, who was adopted as a young toddler by the Taylor-Jones family. Her birth parents turn out to be notorious serial killers. Her widowed mother is too fragile for the media maelstrom that erupts after the world discovers Olivia’s true identity and goes into hiding, leaving Olivia on her own. In an attempt to avoid the paparazzi, as well as, protect her family and friends in Chicago, Olivia goes on the run and finds herself back in the small town of Cainsville, where she lived with her birth parents. Unaware of what appears to be preternatural machinations that draw her to Cainsville, Olivia goes about the business of finding a place to live and getting a job. The town seems to accept Olivia’s presence, unlike Olivia’s friends, family and even her fiance back in Chicago who cannot wait to be rid of her and the scandal that she has brought to their doorsteps.

There are some interesting characters living in Cainsville, in particular the senior citizen contingent of the town. In terms of demographics, Cainsville definitely seems to have more seniors than children running around. The seniors also seem to be true “elders” of the town, and you get the sense that they are running the show. One character, however, seems to command more respect than the seniors and that is Patrick. He is a writer of paranormal romance, or so he says, but it is clear to Olivia that there is more to Patrick than meets the eye. Olivia senses a definite “don’t f@ck with me” vibe rolling off of Patrick, but she can’t quite put her finger on the why behind it.

Then there’s Gabriel Walsh, who is the real enigma in this story. Is he just a money-grubbing lawyer, only interested in the fame and fortune that Olivia’s story can bring him? Or is he a tortured soul, unknowingly looking for redemption and salvation that only Olivia can provide? I found the development of Olivia and Gabriel’s relationship intriguing and I definitely want to see how Gabriel’s character evolves over the course of the series.

JaxI would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention the introduction of the character Ricky, who can only be a Charlie Hunnam look-a-like, and if you have ever watched the show Sons of Anarchy, you would understand why. Coincidentally, Ricky is the son of the head of a successful motorcycle club, just like Hunnam’s character “Jacks” in SOA. Ricky seems to possess many of Jacks’ charming qualities and resourcefulness which will undoubtedly be needed in the second and third book of the series. Ricky could also prove to be a possible love interest for Olivia, or at least the third of a potential Gabriel-Olivia-Ricky love triangle. Who doesn’t enjoy a good love triangle?

EXCERPT – First eight chapters

At the end of Omens, some questions are answered, but so many more are left, which is the sign of a good writer. I’m very curious to see just what Cainsville is really all about and are Olivia’s birth parents murderers or is there something worse that they are hiding?

BUY LINKS

Amazon | Amazon CA | Chapters/Indigo | B&N | Kobo 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelley_Armstrong_3-lrgKelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers’ dismay. All efforts to make her produce “normal” stories failed.

Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She’s the author of the NYT-bestselling “Women of the Otherworld” paranormal suspense series and “Darkest Powers” young adult urban fantasy trilogy, as well as the Nadia Stafford crime series. Armstrong lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets.

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Bitten: The TV Series – Summer Replay

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

bitten_poster

This review was originally posted back in January, when Bitten first aired on the Space Channel in Canada and the Syfy channel in the United States.  As the show’s storyline unfolded, I eagerly followed along, writing my reviews along the way. I’m re-posting my first review now as CTV in Canada is replaying the first season of the show which has just been renewed for a second season to air in 2015. If you haven’t caught the series yet, you can find it on CTV, Saturdays at 10:00 pm. I’m very excited for the return of this show, as it truly has become it’s own story separate from the novels, which might put some fans off, but I think it makes for an interesting re-imagining of the story.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/22/bitten-renewed-season-2_n_5373055.html

When I read that Bitten, the novel by New York Times best-selling author Kelley Armstrong, was coming to television, I was super-excited. This is one of my all time favourite books, and when I thought about how the story unfolds, I thought that there was definitely enough plot-line to carry a season. Now that we are into the first four episodes of the show, I’m still holding out hope that the show will continue to grow and develop into something really good. For the most part, the show’s creators have done a good job with the casting and setting, although I think in my own mind, Antonio and Jeremy were older and it is difficult to get around Clay’s lack of a southern accent, but that’s just me nit-picking.

bitten_group2

As for the plot, my verdict is still out. There are some places where they have almost taken the story and dialogue word for word from the novel and then in other places completely changed it. I know that this is inevitable, so I’m trying to keep an open mind about those changes. One of these changes is having Logan living in the same city as Elena. In the book, Elena is on her own in Toronto and you get a real sense of her isolation and loneliness being separated from her pack. I suspect that this story change was made to demonstrate the closeness between Logan and Elena, which is really told through Elena’s reflections in the novel.

bitten-tv-showElena is living in Toronto to escape her guilt over killing a human who was threatening to expose the existence of werewolves to the world. She’s forced to make a split second decision and blames the “animal” side of her for decision to kill. Elena’s struggle to be human rather than wolf colours every choice that she makes from that point on in her life, including her attempt to leave her pack family behind for good. For the most part, this is all conveyed over the course of the first two episodes. In the first episode, you get to see the life that Elena has tried to build for herself during her self-imposed exile. She has a job, an apartment, and a live-in boyfriend, while she increasingly struggles to hide the wolf side of her.  In the second episode, you learn the history of the pack, and who is in it and the different relationship dynamics that Elena has with each of her pack brothers. By episodes three and four, the danger to the pack has escalated quite dramatically and I certainly hope that the show’s creators can build on this momentum.

Recently I read a review by Kaitlin Thomas for www.tv.com, which I thinks does an excellent job of summing up what isn’t quite right with the story-line: Kaitlin Thomas www.tv.com  Jan. 14, 2014, “there’s nothing inherently bad about Bitten. Fans of genre shows will probably enjoy the series and its mysteries just fine, especially if the story picks up as the show progresses, but overall, Bitten isn’t adding anything new to a television slate that’s slowly becoming overrun with supernatural and fantasy shows. If the series wants to make a name for itself (especially in the U.S.), it’s going to need to step up its game by developing its characters, adding more action, and giving the pack members some distinguishing characteristics and personalities. ” http://www.tv.com/m/shows/bitten-2013/community/post/bitten-series-premiere-review-summons-season-1-episode-1-138946732922/

What I think is the missing piece to the show is Elena’s narration. In the book, most of the story is from her “inside voice”, and it is that personal recount that creates context for how the other characters interact with her, as well as the fills in the story-line more fully. Although somewhat unrelated, an example of a recent excellent film adaptation of a story where the majority of the inner dialogue of the protagonist plays an important part of the movie was Warm Bodies. In this depiction R’s narration was so skillfully incorporated that the film in my opinion was better than the book.

 

I will stick with the show until the end of the season, for better or for worse, but I’m hoping that it lives up to its potential. Bitten is the first book in Armstrong’s “Otherworld” series, where each subsequent book focuses on different characters and their stories. As a fan of Clay and Elena’s story, I’ve always wanted more of it.

Bitten – The TV Series, Episodes 5-6

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

bittenBANNER

We finally get to see how Clay and Elena first met and fell in love in Episode 5. The writers stayed fairly close to Kelley Armstrong’s original story, with just a few minor discrepancies.  I thought that they did a good job of setting the scene that shows Clay’s desperate plan to keep Elena. Upon Elena and Clay’s arrival at Stonehaven to meet Clay’s family for the first time, Jeremy makes it very clear to Clay that he can’t possibly continue his relationship with Elena. Jeremy’s directive seems very cold and harsh, but this is how the Pack has survived over the centuries. The Pack rules state women are not allowed to have lasting relationships with any members of the Pack, for fear of revealing the existence of werewolves to the human world. This was just too big of a secret to try to hide from humans on a day-to-day basis, as already demonstrated by Elena’s struggle to live in Toronto with Philip. All male children were taken from their mothers at a very young age so that no one could discover the truth. Prior to Elena being bitten, no female werewolf had ever survived the change, so when Clay makes the reckless and desperate choice to change and appear in Jeremy’s study in his wolf form, Elena just thinks he’s a very large dog. She had no idea that her life was about to change forever.

In the book, Clay is banished from Stonehaven for more than a year, while Elena learned how to deal with her new circumstances. The show deviates from the original story again, instead of having Jeremy nurse Elena through the early days of her transition, Clay is also present. In the episode, Clay continually restated that Elena was a survivor and that she will survive this.

The novel does an excellent job of explaining how difficult this process was for Elena, and how Clay’s actions are never really forgiven. This is part of the back story between the two characters that I think the show is going to have a difficult time communicating. In the first few episodes, it is made very clear that Elena has no time for Clay, but what is unfortunately not really shown yet to viewers is that when Elena returns to Stonehaven, she is very conflicted by her feelings for Clay. As mentioned in my early post, we discover her struggle mostly through her inner monologue which is missing.

One character that was introduced in earlier episode, Daniel Santos, makes an interesting return. We first met Daniel when he paid  a visit to Logan in Toronto, to say that he wanted to reach out to the Pack. Daniel’s family once belonged to the Pack but after a failed attempt to oust Jeremy as alpha years before, they were kicked out of the family. In the book, there is more back story on Daniel which better explains his obsession with defeating Clay and making Elena his “mate”. At this point in the show, Daniel is offering to work with the Pack to help bring an end to the mutt problem in Bear Valley. In exchange, Daniel wants to return to the Pack.

Another new character in this episode is Victor Olsen, who is a convicted pedophile who has been released back into the community. One of the first people he encounters on the outside is Zachary Cain, who we know to be one of the mutts threatening the Pack. He offers Olsen a chance to seek revenge on his victims by going after Elena Michaels. I have to admit when I first saw this scene, I didn’t really understand where they were going with it.  In the novel, the first time the Pack meet the “new” mutts are through the various attacks in Bear Valley.  It isn’t until Episode 6, that it becomes clear that there is another connection between the Pack and Olsen.

Bitten1

In Episode 6, the show deviates completely from the original. For die-hard fans of the novel, this episode might be too much to handle because the show’s storyline has truly become its own. If, however, I hadn’t read the book, this episode would certainly fill in some missing blanks.

Elena has returned to Toronto and her human life. She feels that her commitment to the Pack is complete, and as a result, she asked Jeremy not to call her back to Stonehaven.  All seems to be going swimmingly well, except for the fact that Daniel Santos makes another appearance, this time at the wedding of Philip’s sister. We get to see more clearly in this episode Elena’s distaste for Daniel, and we also get to see a little more of his darker side.  The show did a good job of casting, as I find Daniel to be very creepy, but it’s hard to say how much of that feeling is based on the actor’s performance or because I have prior knowledge of the character.

Another big departure from the original story is the connection between Olsen and Elena. In a conversation with Philip, Elena reveals that she was abused as a child at the hands of Olsen, who was a neighbour of one of her foster families. Elena’s testimony helped to get Olsen convicted. So now, it becomes a little bit clearer as to how Olsen will be a new threat in episodes to come.  In the book, Elena is a survivor of sexual abuse, but not from Olsen, the abuse came from her foster families and was mostly insinuated rather than told explicitly. Eventually, Elena learns to defend herself, and works very hard to leave her experiences in the foster system behind. Elena’s awful childhood is one of the reasons that Clay recognizes her as a fellow survivor.

The most shocking new development in the show is the discovery that Logan’s girlfriend is pregnant. Given that in the book, Logan is long gone by this point, it is going to be very interesting to see where the show goes with this new development. Will Logan be faced with the heartbreaking choice to tear his new-born child from the arms of the woman he loves, never to see her again? Or will he try to live in the human world? What will Jeremy have to say about this new development?

I guess that I’ll have to keep watching to find out!

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Bitten – The TV Series

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

bitten_poster

When I read that Bitten, the novel by New York Times best-selling author Kelley Armstrong, was coming to television, I was super-excited. This is one of my all time favourite books, and when I thought about how the story unfolds, I thought that there was definitely enough plot-line to carry a season. Now that we are into the first four episodes of the show, I’m still holding out hope that the show will continue to grow and develop into something really good. For the most part, the show’s creators have done a good job with the casting and setting, although I think in my own mind, Antonio and Jeremy were older and it is difficult to get around Clay’s lack of a southern accent, but that’s just me nit-picking.

bitten_group2

As for the plot, my verdict is still out. There are some places where they have almost taken the story and dialogue word for word from the novel and then in other places completely changed it. I know that this is inevitable, so I’m trying to keep an open mind about those changes. One of these changes is having Logan living in the same city as Elena. In the book, Elena is on her own in Toronto and you get a real sense of her isolation and loneliness being separated from her pack. I suspect that this story change was made to demonstrate the closeness between Logan and Elena, which is really told through Elena’s reflections in the novel.

bitten-tv-showElena is living in Toronto to escape her guilt over killing a human who was threatening to expose the existence of werewolves to the world. She’s forced to make a split second decision and blames the “animal” side of her for decision to kill. Elena’s struggle to be human rather than wolf colours every choice that she makes from that point on in her life, including her attempt to leave her pack family behind for good. For the most part, this is all conveyed over the course of the first two episodes. In the first episode, you get to see the life that Elena has tried to build for herself during her self-imposed exile. She has a job, an apartment, and a live-in boyfriend, while she increasingly struggles to hide the wolf side of her.  In the second episode, you learn the history of the pack, and who is in it and the different relationship dynamics that Elena has with each of her pack brothers. By episodes three and four, the danger to the pack has escalated quite dramatically and I certainly hope that the show’s creators can build on this momentum.

Recently I read a review by Kaitlin Thomas for www.tv.com, which I thinks does an excellent job of summing up what isn’t quite right with the story-line: Kaitlin Thomas www.tv.com  Jan. 14, 2014, “there’s nothing inherently bad about Bitten. Fans of genre shows will probably enjoy the series and its mysteries just fine, especially if the story picks up as the show progresses, but overall, Bitten isn’t adding anything new to a television slate that’s slowly becoming overrun with supernatural and fantasy shows. If the series wants to make a name for itself (especially in the U.S.), it’s going to need to step up its game by developing its characters, adding more action, and giving the pack members some distinguishing characteristics and personalities. ” http://www.tv.com/m/shows/bitten-2013/community/post/bitten-series-premiere-review-summons-season-1-episode-1-138946732922/

What I think is the missing piece to the show is Elena’s narration. In the book, most of the story is from her “inside voice”, and it is that personal recount that creates context for how the other characters interact with her, as well as the fills in the story-line more fully. Although somewhat unrelated, an example of a recent excellent film adaptation of a story where the majority of the inner dialogue of the protagonist plays an important part of the movie was Warm Bodies. In this depiction R’s narration was so skillfully incorporated that the film in my opinion was better than the book.

I will stick with the show until the end of the season, for better or for worse, but I’m hoping that it lives up to its potential. Bitten is the first book in Armstrong’s “Otherworld” series, where each subsequent book focuses on different characters and their stories. As a fan of Clay and Elena’s story, I’ve always wanted more of it.