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Series Review: Casey Duncan by Kelley Armstrong

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for City of the Lost (from Goodreads):

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.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Canadian Author
Series: Casey Duncan or Rockton
Author: Kelley Armstrong
# of Books: 4 (City of the Lost, Darkness Absolute, This Fallen Prey, Book 4)

City of the Lost was initially released as a serial novellas.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, This Fallen Prey will be published February 2018
Genre: Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: January 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover (City of the Lost); Publisher–ARC (Darkness Absolute)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s no secret that I am a Kelley Armstrong fan. It’s not just because she is a fellow Canuck; she’s one talent writer in every genre she tries. I’ve enjoyed both her YA and Adult paranormal series over the years but I was really excited to see what she could do with a contemporary mystery/thriller.

I knew it was going to be suspenseful–full of great twists and strong characters–so I couldn’t wait to get started!

The Concept / The World:

First, I love the fact that this book is set in Canada! I don’t get to read many books set in my home country so that was a big bonus for me.

Then the idea that there is this isolated town filled with people trying to escape their previous lives? Fascinating. And the perfect place for trouble to brew! You’ve got this small town vibe where anyone can be a suspect and it’s just great to read about. I loved the setting for this series!

The Plot:

I loved, loved, loved the many layers to this series. Everything just builds from start to finish, book to book.

It’s hard to say much without giving anything away–especially for mystery novels–but I’ll just say that this book was far from predictable. There were so many great twists and the big reveals always had me going “say what!?” in surprise.

I will say, that City of the Lost did drag for me in the middle of the novel when the plot shifted more to character development than the actual mystery. Which was fine, because it really helped established the setting for the remainder of the book and the series, but it did feel slower than the first and latter half of the novel. I never had that problem with A Darkness Absolute however. It is a non-stop roller coaster ride from start to finish.

The Characters:

Like I said above, the small town vibe works extremely well for this series. The anticipation of figuring out whodunit when you’ve met everyone is just fabulous for a reader.

All the characters are just so well developed–even the side ones. I loved learning more about each person.

Casey in particular is a winner in my mind. She’s a strong heroine who definitely has her flaws. She’s complex but as the stories progress, you learn more about her and she learns more about herself. Her character development is a highlight for sure. She reminds me of a more subdued version of Lisbeth from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo–a scarred girl who learns to adapt as her world expands.

The Romance:

A very minor role here but one I really enjoyed. I don’t want to give to much away…so I’m just going to leave it at that.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really hope there are more books to this series! It’s a great world, a fantastic set of characters and the mysteries are just so good.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

City of the Lost 4/5 | A Darkness Absolute  5/5 | Book 3 ?

overall

Honestly, I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about this series! (Maybe I hang out in the wrong crowds). It delivers in every way that you want a mystery/thriller to.

Read if You Like: mysteries/thrillers, small town stories
Avoid if You: dislike mysteries
similarreads

  • Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Underworld Series #1)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson (Millennium Series #1)

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Anthology ARC Review: Led Astray by Kelley Armstrong

Synopsis for Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong (from Goodreads): Two brand new tales anchor this wide-ranging collection from one of urban fantasy’s most successful authors. Here is the first time that best-selling fantasy, YA, and crime author Kelley Armstrong has had her stories collected from Otherworld and beyond. With her signature twists and turns, Armstrong gives a fresh spin on city-dwelling vampires, werewolves, and zombies, while also traveling further afield, to a post-apocalyptic fortress, a superstitious village, a supernatural brothel, and even to feudal Japan. With tales that range from humorous to heart-stopping, these are the stories that showcase Kelley Armstrong at her versatile best.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Canadian Author
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Anthology, Short Stories, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Supernatural
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First & Third Person
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Source & Format: ARC–eBook Thank you Tachyon Publications!

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was asked if I would be interested in reading the latest work by Kelley Armstrong before it came out–I immediately said yes! I love Kelley Armstrong’s work. Whether it’s her adult works or her young adult works, I’m always looking forward to her latest release. I’m not too up to date with the Otherworld series but I was looking forward to the Age of Legends short story as well as the Darkest Powers and standalone stories.

The Kitsune’s Nine Tales:

I just want to mention this one specifically because I LOVE the Age of Legend series, I was stoked for this! It was a perfect prequel short story and I hope we get more of these in the future because it added so much depth to the series. I can hope anyway 😉

The other stories:

These stories did a great job showing off Armstrong’s talent as a writer. Her ability to write strong adult and young adult stories as well as jump between urban fantasy and thriller/horror is amazing and shown fully here.

I’m not a huge short story fan but these ones were really well done! I had enough information to understand what was happening completely. I didn’t feel like information was missing and it was easy to move from story to story. There keep your attention and end on a very satisfactory note. Simply well done!

My Rating: 4/5

overall

If you enjoy variety to your anthologies, this is a great one! Fans of Kelley Armstrong will love these extra bonuses to their favourite Armstrong series!

Read if You Like: anthologies, short stories, urban fantasy
Avoid if You: don’t like short stories

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Series Review: Age of Legends by Kelley Armstrong

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Age of Legends Series

SERIESous’ Top Book Series: Favourite Canadian Author, Sad to See Go 2016
Series: Age of Legends Trilogy
Author: Kelley Armstrong
# of Books: 3 (Sea of Shadows, Empire of Night, Forests of Ruin)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Suspense, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating

Thoughts:

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

If you ever read the biography bit on Kelley Armstrong, you will see that she “lives in rural Ontario”. I am from that same part of Ontario (just a town over) so I always make an effort to read her works. I’ve loved her other two teen series, The Darkest Powers and the Darkness Rising, so I  was excited to see where this series was going to go–and where it does is nowhere near her previous works.

When I was reading Sea of Shadows I kept thinking about the Red Riding Hood (2011) movie with Amanda Seyfried. The world that the book is set in reminded me so much about that world in the movie: a dark, fantasy-creature-driven place. It really has no other connections to the movie in anyway except maybe the really good twist at the end.

I haven’t read anything like Sea of Shadows in a really long time (maybe ever). Perhaps it’s because I read a lot of dystopian and New Adult reads and not a lot of high fantasy novels; but I really enjoy fantasy novels and I think this book helped me remember that.

However, I didn’t love the book; and I would say that until the last 5 chapters or so I was going to give this book a flat 3. The book kind of goes through high and low points. Some parts where really interesting, but then things would get a little slow. Part of the reason was that the POV would switch to the other sister right when something exciting was happening and wouldn’t go back until 3-5 chapters later. And when you did finally get back there, the scene you expect to unfold is neatly summarized into two sentences (very disappointing). The other problem is what the reader expects to read about after they have read the synopsis for the book. The girls spend more time in the village than they do on the journey to find each other. So if you are expecting a mostly adventure novel in that sense you will be disappointed.

You will also be disappointed if you are expecting a great love story. Romance is really not the focus of this book at all. Instead the focus is on the girls becoming confident in their own individual abilities and trying to figure out what the hell happened to their village. I personally didn’t have a problem with the leads as they are what I expected when I read that there were two twin girls (one is super confident, the other is not, etc). But, I do think some people might find them a tad dull in that respect (though I have to say they really grow throughout the novel as characters).

The way it ends has really captured my attention and I’m looking forward to what is in-store next for the twins.

updates

–July 4, 2015– Book 2: Empire of Night

WOW! This book was amazing! Even if I wasn’t in a reading slump, I would have been addicted to this story! And unlike when I read the first novel, I’ve been devouring high fantasy novels so this one had some stiff standards to uphold. Everything is turned up in this sequel: the romance, the action, the politics, the suspense. Even the writing sequence improved. Every time you get a cliffhanger when the POV changes, it picks up right back where you left it–and thank goodness for that! This book truly blew me away and is exactly what I expect in a Kelley Armstrong novel!

I simply cannot wait to see what happens in the grand finale because it is going to be epic!

–June 17, 2016– Book 3: Forest of Ruin

This finale was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 and it did NOT disappoint!

I was hooked from the start right through to the end. Everything that had been amped up from the previous novel kept pace and continued to blow me away. From the lore to the politics to the action to the romance–it’s all on point here and fans of the series will love this grande finale. It was a wild ride thanks to all the plot developments and their awesome twists. I loved the unpredictability this novel had and it made it that much more enjoyable to me.

It was just a fantastic way to end this series and made me SO GLAD that I didn’t drop it after the slower start that was Sea of Shadows 🙂

 

My Rating: 5/5

Sea of Shadows 4/5 | Empire of Night 5/5 | Forest of Ruin 5/5

overall

If you want a high fantasy novel that focuses more on the supernatural/paranormal aspects of fantasy, this is a great series! For fans of Armstrong’s other works (Adult or Young Adult) this is completely different though it definite has all the same writing touches you expect. But don’t let the slower pace of the first novel deter you from picking up the sequel: because the follow-up truly takes things to the next level!

Read if You Like: world-building, supernatural/paranormal fantasy
Avoid if You: dislike slower starts, want more romance

similarreads

Synopsis for Sea of Shadows (from Goodreads):
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

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Spin-off Saturdays: Darkness Rising Series by Kelley Armstrong

Spin-off Saturdays: On Saturdays, I will review a series that is a spin-off series. It is recommended that you read the original series first in order to get the most out of the spin-off series. Here is this week’s offering:

The Darkness Series is a spin-off of the Darkest Powers

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SERIESous’ Top Book Series: Favourite Canadian Author
Series: Darkness Rising Trilogy
Author: Kelley Armstrong
# of Books: 3 (The Gathering, The Calling, The Rising)

This is a spinoff of the Darkest Powers Trilogy.

Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Action, Romance, Suspense
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 2011 – April 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook & Paperback

warning
WARNING: If you have not finished the original series, The Darkest Powers, this review may have spoilers!

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a review of the first two books of the series. It has now been updated to include the last publication in the series.**

My Expectations:

Because I loved, Darkest Powers Trilogy, this spin-off series was a must read for me. That also meant I was going in with high expectations.

My Review of The Gathering and The Calling:

Unfortunately the first book, The Gathering didn’t quite meet my hopes. I found it a little predictable and a little lackluster in plot. It does pickup plot-wise near the end (and book 2, The Calling continues with this faster pace) but for the most part I was a little bored with it. I also didn’t really like Maya. I really tried to like her (and at the start it seemed promising) but she seemed very petty and selfish to me so I had a hard time liking her character. However, if there is one thing this book does well, it is establishing the setting and circumstances for the next book.

I enjoyed The Calling a lot more than book 1. In this book, the plots begin to unfold and there is a lot more action to be found. We also get to learn more about the other characters in the series, so there is a little less focus on Maya, which in my opinion is a bonus.

How Does it Compare to the Original Series?

This series is very similar to Darkest Powers Trilogy and rightfully so as it is the sequel series (I mean, even look at the titles and you can see a pattern between the two). Both involve a group of teens learning about their true heritage and what that means for them in the world they find themselves in. Of course there are different plot stories, but the main progression of the novels follow a similar path. For those hoping for a direct sequel to Chloe and company, as you can probably tell, this isn’t it. The two series are loosely connected but the Darkest Powers Trilogy plays a huge role in the plot development of this series.

updates

–August 7, 2017– Book #: The Rising

I will admit, it took me far longer than it should have to pick up this finale. But thanks to my Summer TBR Wipeout Challenge, I got around to this final novel.

Even though it has been nearly 4 years since I read this trilogy, I was immediately thrown back in. There was enough info at the start to get me up to pace and feel like I literally just read The Calling last week.

This book was good and definitely a solid finale. It was nice to see how this series intersects with The Darkest Powers and I felt like I was able to get closure with both series because of that.

I still found myself irritated by Maya at times and some of her friends. They just aren’t as likeable as Chloe & co. to me. They come across as entitled and slightly petty (and they are because of the circumstances of their situation so its understandable). So I found myself getting frustrated at the romantic developments of this series. (Let’s just say my “team” didn’t win).

Series Rating: 4/5

The Gathering 4/5 | The Calling 4/5 | The Rising 4/5

overall

Not as good as the Darkest Powers series, but a solid sequel that is unique in its own right. I recommend that you read the Darkest Powers before you read this series, but you can probably make do on your own without doing so.

similarreads
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (Darkest Powers Trilogy, #1)

WARNING: IF YOU HAVE not FINISHED the Darkest Powers SERIES THE FOLLOWING SYNOPSIS may have SPOILERS!

Synopsis for The Gathering (from Goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn’t know much about her background – the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip – but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.

Until now.

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town – from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend’s hidden talent for “feeling” out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya’s biological parents and it’s easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.

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Series Review: The Darkest Powers by Kelley Armstrong

SERIESous’ Top Book Series: Favourite Canadian Authors
Series: Darkest Powers Trilogy
Author: Kelley Armstrong
# of Books: 3 (The Summoning, The Awakening, The Reckoning)

There are also some short novellas that take place between these books. Details here
There is a “spin-off” series called The Darkness Rising

Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Action, Magic, Suspense
Heat Rating: cold

Thoughts:

I picked up this book for two reasons: 1 is that Kelley Armstrong actually lives a few towns over from me so I was intrigued that a huge author was based just around the corner from me and 2 is that the plot really grabbed my attention.

NOTE: It has been a really long time since I read these books and the reason I am doing so now is because the spin-off series, The Darkness Rising, has just released the last book of the trilogy. I don’t like writing about the spin-off series when I don’t have a review of the original, SO consider yourself warned that this review will be really brief and most likely vague.

I definitely plan on rereading these books because I really enjoyed them! I also think that the writing style and story are both something that I will enjoy even when I am older. Although the series is targeted for young adults, there is nothing about the writing that is juvenile that would turn me off of rereading these when I am older. I have since read a few more of Armstrong’s adult novels and I find that the writing is very similar in all her books–it’s just the plots that are changed to her audience. Fun Fact: Most of Kelley Armstrong’s books take place within the same paranormal universe (even her adult ones!)–so while you don’t have to read all the books to get what is going on, if you do read them, you will see little connections here and there!

Now, for the books themselves. The Summoning starts off a little slow but really builds. At the end of book 1 we have found ourselves at the top of a hill and from that point on, the book is just rolling non-stop action, mystery and suspense. There is never a dull moment in The Awakening or The Reckoning and I finished both books within two days each. The only bummer part was waiting a year for the next book to be published.

As for the characters, I really liked all of them. Chloe was great. I admired her and she just seemed so real to me in her reactions to the circumstances thrown at her. As the books progress you get to watch her grow into a strong, more confident girl. One thing I think sets this series apart from The Darkness Rising series is that the teens who take center focus (ie. Chloe’s friends) don’t know each other right from the start. There is some tension between them and I liked watching the dynamics shift between them as they learn to trust each other and become friends. (FYI: In the Darkness Rising Trilogy, all the characters have been a part of the same friend circle for years).

Conclusion:

I know my review above doesn’t tell too much about the series, but it really is worth a read! It’s hard to talk about the series without giving everything away! If you are looking for a fresh paranormal read that doesn’t focus on vampires, PICK THESE BOOKS UP!

Rating: 5/5

Similar Reads: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong (Darkness Rising Trilogy, #1 — spin-off series)

Synopsis for The Summoning (from Goodreads):
My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.

All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don’t even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost – and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won’t leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a “special home” for troubled teens. Yet the home isn’t what it seems. Don’t tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? it’s up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House…before its skeletons come back to haunt me.